Driver hits, kills wheelchair user in Brownsville less than a block from victim’s home

intersection where brownsville pedestrian killed
A 63-year-old man using a wheelchair was killed by an SUV driver in Brownsville on Saturday.
Photo courtesy of Google Maps

A 63-year-old man pedestrian using a wheelchair was hit and killed by the driver of an SUV at a Brownsville intersection on June 1, according to the NYPD.

An initial investigation found that Brownsville resident William Rosario was crossing New Lots Avenue at the corner of Mother Gaston Boulevard shortly after 10 p.m. when the driver, a 67-year-old man heading east on New Lots Avenue in a Honda CR-V, struck him.

The driver remained on the scene after the crash, according to the NYPD. Rosario was taken by ambulance to Brookdale Hospital Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead. He lived less than a block away from the scene of the crash, on Hegeman Avenue. 

Officers did not immediately suspect criminality, and had not arrested the driver as of June 5, though an investigation is ongoing. The intersection where the crash took place has a traffic light, but it was not immediately clear who had the right of way when the driver drove through.

A total of 11 crashes were reported at the intersection of Mother Gaston Boulevard and New Lots Avenue, according to data compiled by NYC CrashMapper, resulting in 16 injuries — 13 to motorists and three to pedestrians. 

According to Georgetown University, pedestrians using wheelchairs are much more likely to be killed in crashes than pedestrians not using them. In more than 20% of those cases, crash occurred because the driver failed to yield right-of-way, Bloomberg reported in 2015 — and in a large number of those crashes, the driver did not attempt to brake or swerve to avoid the pedestrian. 

One scientist associated with the Georgetown study suggested that wheelchair users may be more prone to serious injury because they are “less conspicuous,” or less visible, to drivers. Last summer, a 63-year-old wheelchair user was fatally struck by an SUV while crossing the street in Kensington. Weeks later, an 87-year-old woman was badly wounded when a driver attempting to back into a parking space slammed into her in her motorized wheelchair. 

In a statement, street-safety advocacy group Transportation Alternatives said the intersection where the crash took place — which has two lanes in both directions —does not have any daylighting to improve visibility, or measures to slow drivers. 

The city’s Department of Transportation in 2021 proposed a street-safety overhaul of a stretch of Mother Gaston Boulevard between Sutter and Livonia avenues, a few blocks north of New Lots Avenue. According to DOT stats, 64 people were injured in crashes along that stretch of the boulevard between 2014 and 2018, seven severely. No improvements were suggested for the intersection of Mother Gaston Boulevard and New Lots Avenue. 

“We are devastated to hear that a person using a wheelchair was killed in an act of preventable traffic violence. We send our deepest condolences to his loved ones,” said Elizabeth Adams, deputy executive director for public affairs at Transportation Alternatives. “Our leaders have the power to prevent crashes and save lives.”

Adams urged Mayor Eric Adams to move forward on measures like adding new protected bike lanes, bus lanes, and car-free pedestrian spaces to streets across the city to protect bikers and pedestrians.

“We also need City Hall to follow through on its commitment to daylight at least 1,000 intersections a year; daylighting is especially critical for protecting our smallest and most vulnerable pedestrians like children or wheelchair users,” she said.