BATH BEACH – Seven-year-old Sama Ali was on her scooter wearing pink Adidas sandals. She was with her family and was crossing the street at the signal, NYPD confirmed, after spending some time at the nearby park when a driver in a truck making a left turn struck her and killed her. Her home was just a six-minute walk away. Her pink sandal remained on the street.
The tragic event happened yesterday, September 28, just after 4 p.m., as Sama was crossing Bay 23rd Street and Bath Avenue on her scooter from west to east, near the Muslim American Society (MAS) Youth Center. A man driving a 2015 GardaWorld Armored Truck made a left turn and struck her killing her. The little girl was taken to Lutheran Hospital and was pronounced dead. The driver remained at the scene and as of now, he has not been arrested or charged. “Police do not suspect criminality, an NYPD spokesman said. The driver, a man in his 40s, said he didn’t see the little girl as she crossed, the spokesman said,” the Daily News reported.
“Inna lillahi wa inna illahee rajeoon. To Allah we belong and to Him we shall return. Sama (daughter of Duaa and Mohamed Saad) has passed away today after being struck by a motor vehicle while riding her scooter near the MAS Youth Center,” the MAS Youth Center posted on Facebook. “The eyes shed tears and our hearts grieve but we do not say anything except what pleases our lord. May Allah envelop her in His mercy, accept her as a shaheed (martyr), and grant her al firdous (heaven). May Allah grant her family sweet patience and acceptance of his qadar. Ameen.”
Sama was her parent’s only daughter. She leaves behind three older brothers who love her dearly. At just seven-years-old, she was very loved by her community. One of her teachers at the MAS Youth Center described her to us as a “sweet, smart, and loving girl.” Her GoFundMe describes her as a girl who “was filled with radiant energy and brought a smile and warmth to everyone she knew.” She would come to the masjid wearing a hijab wrapped around her small head and brought her prayer mat with her to pray salah with her father. Her teacher told us whenever she’d come to the masjid, Sama would run, give her a big hug, and tell her salaam.
“Every traffic death is a preventable tragedy, but the loss of a young child is especially difficult to bear,” NYC Council Speaker Corey Johnson said. “My heart breaks for the family and friends of Sama Ali, whose life was cut short too soon. Our fight for safe streets must continue until we finally achieve the goals of vision zero – until we end traffic deaths in our city.”
“The infuriating thing is that DOT has the tools to make intersections in Bath Beach and other neighborhoods safer but too often traffic flow and speed take priority. This has to end now,” Council Member Justin Brannan said. “DOT must start implementing safety controls like Leading Pedestrian Intervals that prioritize safety over speed so that not one more family must endure the loss of a child from traffic violence. We must seriously question the city’s priorities for saving lives when known safety controls are ignored over and over so that drivers can get where they need to go just a little bit faster. My heart is breaking for this family today. Our neighborhood will come together, as we always do, to surround them with love and support during this impossible time.”
When making a turn, drivers are expected to reduce their speed and watch for pedestrians, bicyclists and moped riders. “They are often difficult to see in traffic,” the DMV chapter on intersections & turns states. Before obtaining a driver’s license, every driver is expected to know this. “Be especially alert to individuals in wheel chairs, people pushing strollers, or someone pulling a wheeled suitcase behind them. They may be closer to the ground and hidden behind a car.”
According to the Tampa Bay Times, at least 19 people were killed in GardaWorld crashes between 2008 and March 2020, with 12 of those deaths caused by mechanical failure or driver error. GardaWorld released a statement to the Daily News and said it is conducting an internal investigation and is sending out an accident response team. “All of us at GardaWorld are deeply saddened by the news of this tragic accident. Our thoughts and prayers, and our deepest condolences go out to the family and loved ones of the decedent.”
Sama is at least the 182nd person killed in traffic violence, and the ninth child to die on NYC streets to date in 2020. Just a five minute walk away from where Sama was killed, three-year-old Elnur Shavkator was riding his scooter and was crossing the Bay 25th Street and Benson Avenue in 2019, when a driver in a van made a right and struck the little boy. He was killed just days before Ramadan. And just one block away from Sama’s fatal crash, 56-year-old Alfiya Djuraeva was killed by a vehicle making a left turn on Bath Avenue and 20th Avenue in 2016.
In the month of August alone, there were 105 reported motor vehicle collisions with a total of 126 people who were injured, in the 62 precinct, which includes Bensonhurst, Mapleton, and Bath Beach, according to city-data.
“Sama Ali, a seven-year-old, did not have to die while crossing the street with her scooter. This crash, like countless others across New York City, could have been prevented. My heart aches for Sama’s family,” Amy Cohen, the co-founder of Families For Safe Streets said. “Like them, I buried a child because of a preventable crash, and demand accountability from the City for allowing traffic violence to continue unchecked and unabated.”
“I stood beside Emur’s heartbroken family with other Families for Safe Streets members who had also lost loved ones in traffic crashes, and we were promised changes would be made in this community to prioritize safe streets. How many more must die before our city fulfills that promise?” she continued. “New York City will never see an end to traffic violence if our leaders don’t learn from past crashes—and work tirelessly to prevent new ones. As long as they put the convenience of drivers over the lives of our children, families across the five boroughs will continue to suffer preventable tragedies like we have.”
Sama’s funeral is taking place today at the MAS Youth Center at 3:30 p.m. To help support Sama’s family, a GoFundMe has been set up. You can donate here.