‘Overcome with pain’: Family of Dyker Heights woman killed by pickup driver ask for community support

family of dyker heights woman at press conference
Xiaohong Chen’s husband, Wei Zhao, said his family has been devastated by his wife’s death.
Photo courtesy of state Sen. Iwen Chu

The family of the Dyker Heights woman killed by a pickup truck driver a short distance from her home on Jan. 16 say they are “overcome with pain” following her death, as local pols push for greater pedestrian safety measures to be implemented.

Xiaohong Chen, 52, was crossing Bay Ridge Avenue just a few blocks from her home at about 8 p.m. last Tuesday when she was struck by the 72-year-old driver of a Dodge Ram pickup truck, which was making a left turn onto Bay Ridge Avenue from 13th Avenue.

Paramedics transported Chen to Maimonides Medical Center in critical condition, but she later died of her injuries. The pickup truck driver remained on scene and has not been arrested. A spokesperson for the NYPD said Monday that the investigation into the fatal collision is ongoing.

Chen came to the United States 10 years ago and had been living in Dyker Heights with her son while her husband, Wei Zhao, worked out of state. Zhao described the family’s grief and growing financial woes during a press conference Jan. 19 alongside local state Sen. Iwen Chu.

scene of dyker heights crash
Police are still investigating the fatal Jan. 16 crash. File photo by Lloyd Mitchell

“Our family is overcome in pain and deep sorrow. My son had an inseparable bond with his mother, and she was the best mother to him,” said Zhao, noting that couple’s 14-year-old son’s education is now on hold as he waits to undergo grief counseling. “While I had to go out of state to find work, she took care of our son in every way possible. Without her, we do not know how we will manage to survive between rent and other living expenses.”

As Chen was the main source of income as a worker at a garment factory, the family now faces an uncertain future as the expenses of Chen’s burial, next month’s rent, and mental health counseling begin to mount.

Chu called on the local community to support an online fundraiser set up by Zhao to get him and his son through the aftermath of Chen’s death, as he is unable to leave the state to work due to now being his son’s main caregiver.

“My heart breaks for Mr. Zhao and his son as they grieve this unimaginable loss,” said Chu. “As a mother myself, I cannot imagine what her loss means to this family. No family should be going through this pain. I’m here for Mr. Zhao and his son, to help them get through this difficult time.”

The GoFundMe has so far raised over $16,000 of its $50,000 goal.

Pols push for universal daylighting

So far this year, five pedestrians have been killed in road traffic accidents, according to NYC Crash Mapper. In Brooklyn over the last five years, some 183 pedestrians lost their lives on the borough’s streets.

On Sunday, a 62-year-old woman was killed after a pickup truck driver struck her in the crosswalk as he turned left from Avenue X onto southbound East 16th Street in Sheepshead Bay.

A substantial number of fatal crashes take place when vehicles are turning at intersections which are designed in such a way that allows drivers to park their cars immediately adjacent to or even in the crosswalk, dramatically reducing visibility for pedestrians and drivers. Redesigning such intersections to physically prevent parking in or near intersections is known as “daylighting.” After a 7-year-old boy was killed by a turning NYPD tow truck driver at a non-daylit intersection in November, Mayor Eric Adams pledged to daylight 1,000 intersections every year.

New York State law already effectively requires daylighting, prohibiting parking within 20 feet of a curb, but New York City is exempt from that law. This year, the City Council passed a bill requiring the city to daylight at least 100 dangerous intersections every year, starting in 2025.

A group of local politicians recently sent a letter to the Commissioner of the Department of Transportation Ydanis Rodriguez asking that he make good on the mayor’s promise to implement universal daylighting across the city immediately.

“There have been far too many tragic crash fatalities and serious injuries from turning vehicles at intersections. We ask that the Department of Transport take immediate action to improve safety at intersections across the city through universal daylighting with hardened materials such as boulders, planters, and bike corrals,” reads the letter co-signed by Council Member Shahana Hanif, Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso, Assembly members Marcela Mitaynes, Jo Anne Simon and Robber Carroll, and state senators Andrew Gounardes and Zellnor Myrie.

In the wake of Chen’s death last week, Assembly Member William Colton also called for stepped-up enforcement of dangerous driving infractions to curtail the “dangerous driving epidemic.”

“Drivers need to slow down, obey traffic signals and signs, and pay attention to all those with whom they share the road – pedestrians, cyclists and other motorists,” said Colton. “And our police officers need to be more vigilant about stopping motorists who flout driving laws and common sense – those who drive through red lights and stop signs, make illegal U-turns, speed down our neighborhood thoroughfares and turn quickly without paying attention to what’s going on around them.”

—With reporting from Ben Brachfeld