From the New York Daily News, June 21:
Schoolgirl killed by SUV
A 5-year-old Brooklyn girl running to catch her school bus was rammed and killed by an SUV yesterday after darting out from behind two parked cars, police said.
Kindergartner Chana Friedlander apparently could not hear her frantic bus driver when he screamed at her to stay out of the street as the BMW pulled around the bus at 8:15 a.m.
“The car didn’t stop for the flashing lights. She didn’t look,” the bus driver, Jenoe Lichtman, said after the fatal accident on Marcy Ave. in Williamsburg.
“All of the sudden, she came out of nowhere,” Lichtman, 68, said of the SUV. “I was screaming out to [Chana]. This is a bus driver’s worst nightmare.”
Lichtman said he had extended the bus’ stop sign and activated its warning lights while stopping on the one-way street.
But a police source said investigators doubt his account because there likely would not have been enough room for the SUV to fit between the bus and parked cars if the stop sign had been extended.
Chana, who attended the Beth Chana School just a few blocks from where she was hit, died of head injuries at the scene.
“We’re all very brokenhearted,” her grandmother said at the family’s home on Marcy Ave. “We can’t even talk right now.”
The SUV driver, Tricia Thomas, an occupational therapist who was heading to her job at Public School 141, cried hysterically after hitting the little girl.
Thomas, 27, initially told cops that the bus didn’t have any of its warning devices activated. She was treated at Wyckoff Heights Medical Center for emotional trauma.
Thomas, who was not charged with a crime, declined to speak with detectives after retaining a lawyer but was expected to be questioned today.
Cops found a 3-inch scratch on the front of Thomas’ SUV, and investigators were trying to determine if the damage could have been caused by an extended stop sign. But the bus’ stop sign did not appear damaged, sources said.
“There’s a lot of conflicting witness accounts,” a source said. “Some said the stop sign was out. Some said it wasn’t.”
Cops issued five summonses. Three of the citations were given to the bus company for faulty equipment not related to the accident. The other two were given to Lichtman for carrying an improper commercial driver’s license and failing to have a state medical certificate.
Chanting and praying, more than 200 mourners gathered at Bedford Ave. and Penn St. with Chana’s parents, Meryl and Israel, for her funeral at 1 p.m., keeping with Orthodox Jewish custom.
Moishe Indig, a Jewish leader, said community backlash against Thomas was unlikely.
“Everybody understands that it was an accident,” Indig said. “Everyone pities her. She didn’t get up this morning planning for this to happen.”
Thomas, of East Flatbush, has two infractions on her driving record, a 2004 ticket for obstructing an intersection and a 2003 ticket for speeding.
Still, some onlookers insisted she was reckless.
“The car just went zooming through that stop sign,” said Judy Hershkowitz, 34. “Definitely, 100%, 1,000%, 1 million percent, the stop sign was out.”
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