In the wake of the fatal school bus accident that killed a 68-year-old woman on Story Ave. and Havemeyer Ave. in the Bronx on Valentine’s Day, the 43rd Precinct Community Council met to talk about it on Wednesday evening, and the meeting took a chilly turn as the precinct’s commanding officer addressed the group.
Deputy Inspector Benjamin D. Gurley took the podium to describe a meeting he had earlier with bus companies, following the incident. The small room was packed with community members in chairs and officers in uniform sitting at the front of the room. Unlike the other community leaders who had spoken earlier, Gurley received a cold welcome, with no round of applause, when he took the podium.
The reason: frustration. People in the meeting said they had long been complaining about bus drivers speeding through residential neighborhoods and ignoring “no buses” traffic signs on certain residential streets, including the street the woman, Agnes Egan, died on. Now the death of Egan had led commanding officer Gurley to address such issues—again.
“The companies have agreed to communicate better with NYPD to make sure we are on the same page with enforcing bus drivers to follow the rules,” said Gurley. He explained that during the meeting he had been shocked at some of his findings about bus operations. For example, Gurley said this was the first he had heard of 1,500 buses parked along Zerega Avenue, which he sees as unacceptable. Towards the end of the meeting with the bus company officials, Gurley said, they came to an agreement—that all traffic violations need to be reported to the NYPD, and that non-traffic violations need to be stressed to the drivers. Gurley said he is hopeful that “reckless” driving will stop after bus companies take more control of their drivers.
According to police, the bus driver in Egan’s case has been located and claims that he was not aware that he had hit anyone. The results of the investigation, Gurley told the residents, are in the hands of the Bronx District Attorney, who will determine whether the driver will be charged. Egan was killed after she walked in front of the bus around 9:50 a.m. on Thursday—as seen on a surveillance video that has been widely circulated. After being dragged by the bus she was pronounced dead upon arrival at Jacobi Medical Center.
But the neighbors said the intersection has been a problem for some time and that despite the signs reading “no buses”—because the road is narrow—the drivers ignore the rules. “They don’t care” screamed a resident in the meeting, which was held in ShopRite grocery store.
One local resident said she has been back and forth with her school bus company after her special needs daughter was stuck on the bus for two hours without food or a restroom. Her phone calls with the company, she said, usually end with a hangup. After asking the school to help, she said, she realized the school was just as powerless as the parents. “These drivers have improper training,” she said.
“The companies need to pay more attention to who they are hiring,” said another Bronx resident. “In the past they would hire retired police or ex-military, but now they hire all these young drivers that don’t know what they are doing.”
In Gurley’s closing statement on the issue, he said he foresees more meetings between the NYPD and school bus companies to ensure the safety of Bronx residents.