Sept. 4, 2014 By Christian Murray
In the past year, three pedestrians were run down and killed while crossing the streets of Western Queens. On all three occasions, the driver fled. And on all three occasions, no one has been caught.
This was the story behind the death of Luis Bravo, 19, who was killed last September crossing Broadway in Woodside; as well as Karen Pheras, 20, who was killed around the same time crossing Queens Plaza North; as well as Kumar Ragunath, 64, who was struck and killed in March, crossing Northern Boulevard in Long Island City.
All three dead, with their grieving relatives not knowing what happened.
In the wake of these incidents, Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer introduced legislation earlier this year calling for tougher penalties on drivers who flee the scene. The bill was discussed at a Transportation Committee hearing in city hall yesterday and the families of some of the victims spoke.
“It’s something you never get over,” Maribel Egipciaco, a relative of Luis Bravo, told CBS News yesterday.”The pain is unbearable, the pain stays,” she said, adding that she hopes stiffer penalties could prevent future tragedies.
The bill would impose a maximum “civil” penalty of $5,000 for any driver who hits someone and takes off.
“We need to establish penalties that deter people from the leaving the scene,” Van Bramer said. “People should stop and call the police and see if they can help…leaving them to die is brutal and cruel and people need to be punished.”
Currently there are no “civil” penalties in New York if someone leaves the scene of a hit-and-run.
Criminal penalties are determined by the state lawmakers.
“When Luis Bravo was struck, we don’t know if he was alive afterward,” Van Bramer said. “Maybe he could have been saved if he got medical attention in time.”