A 30-year-old driver has been arrested and charged with manslaughter after killing a 6-year-old girl in Dyker Heights on Tuesday, according to police.
Qiuhua Zhu was driving south on 12th Avenue in a Lexus SUV, police said, when at about 8:00pm, he crossed over the double yellow line into oncoming traffic before attempting a left turn at 67th street. There, he struck Hiromi Tamy as she was crossing the street.
Zhu initially continued eastbound on 67th Street, then returned to the crash site after traveling around the block.
When police arrived at the scene, they found the child unconscious and unresponsive, with severe head and body trauma. EMS transported Hiromi to Maimonides Medical Center, where she was pronounced dead.
Hiromi resided mere feet away from the crash site, in a building on 67th Street. Zhu and the passengers in his vehicle were not injured.
In addition to manslaughter, Zhu is facing charges of vehicular assault, reckless endangerment, failure to yield to a pedestrian, and a host of other charges.
Local State Senator Andrew Gounardes and Council Member Justin Brannan released a joint statement, in which they sent condolences to Hiromi’s family and called for action to address “the epidemic of traffic violence in our city.”
“This out-of-control SUV driver failed to obey a traffic device, drove the wrong direction on a one-way, and made an improper left turn,” the joint statement said. We can’t afford to give these perpetrators a pass, which is why we need to reform the way we hold reckless drivers who kill or injure others fully accountable.”
“We must give our city the power to lower speed limits in a way that meets particular neighborhoods’ safety needs, and if we don’t act now to pass legislation like the Crash Victim Rights and Safety Act, we run the risk of facing similar tragedies again. I mourn the loss of Hiromi Tamy, and I will continue working to combat traffic violence so that we can finally put an end to such loss of life.”
2021 is on track to be the deadliest year for traffic since Mayor de Blasio took office in 2014. There have been 166 traffic fatalities so far this year, according to city data, up from 128 at the same time last year.
The numbers of traffic fatalities declined for several years under de Blasio’s Vision Zero initiative, but have begun to rise again during the pandemic, which has prompted more New Yorkers to forgo public transit in favor of private cars.
The advocacy group Transportation Alternatives has also suggested a link between the increased number of SUVs on city streets and the growing number of fatalities. Between 2016 and 2020, the group found, the number of SUVs registered in New York City grew 21%, while the number of registered sedans dropped 17%.
The share of traffic fatalities involving SUVs in the city has grown 55% for cyclists and 47% for pedestrians compared to de Blasio’s first term, according the organization, while the share of cycling and pedestrian deaths involving sedans declined 57% and 33% over the same period.
“We all have to do a lot more,” de Blasio said, when asked about the crash at a press briefing Wednesday morning. “People need to use the cars less. People need to drive more carefully. People need to respect that we're talking about kids. We're talking about seniors who are in danger when people drive recklessly or they drive under the influence.”
“Vision Zero is the strategy,” he continued. “And it's the strategy that we have proven can make a difference. But it's also been challenged by COVID and so many people getting back in the cars. And we have to go back to getting people out of cars, more and more mass transit investment, more and more recovery, which is also going to help people feel more comfortable.”
The mayor referenced planned changes to McGuinness Boulevard in north Brooklyn, a historically dangerous street which is being redesigned in the aftermath of a crash that killed a beloved schoolteacher. The city expects to invest $39 million in the redesign.
But de Blasio did not announce any intentions to change the mile-long stretch of 12th Avenue where Hiromi was killed. In 2020, there were 30 crashes on the street that injured nine people.