segunda-feira, 22 de setembro de 2014

Police Officer Dies and 8 Are Hurt in Van Crash in the Bronx

For the young Bronx police officers on their way to help patrol a major demonstration in Midtown Manhattan, the early morning assignment on Sunday was a reprieve from the daily danger of a violent precinct.
But as the police van in which they were riding rounded a notoriously sharp turn on the Bruckner Expressway just after 5 a.m., the driver lost control and the van slammed into a barrier, ejecting a 25-year-old rookie officer onto the rain-slicked roadway.
The officer, Michael Williams, was pronounced dead less than an hour later at Lincoln Hospital. Eight other officers who were in the marked police van, a 2009 Ford Econoline, were hurt, though their injuries were not life-threatening, the police said.
Mayor Bill de Blasio called the crash a tragedy and said he was “heartsick” at the death of Officer Williams. “The notion that this was a guy just starting out, who loved what he was doing as a police officer and had a whole bright future ahead, and he lost it in this tragic accident,” the mayor said, speaking to reporters at the climate change protest that some of the officers in the van had been assigned to patrol.
At Lincoln Hospital, top police officials appeared shaken. Philip Banks III, the chief of department, said Officer Williams had joined the department to follow in the footsteps of his father, a 32-year-veteran of the Carmel, N.Y., police force. “It’s all he ever wanted to do,” Chief Banks said.
Investigators were looking into the circumstances of the crash, which did not involve any other vehicles. Among the issues being examined: how fast the van was going as it approached the sharp left turn near Bryant Avenue and whether the officers on board were wearing seatbelts, as required. Investigators were also performing mechanical tests on the van.
All officers must wear seatbelts when on duty, a policy that dates back to William J. Bratton’s initial tenure as police commissioner in the mid-1990s amid a rash of on-duty driving deaths and injuries. The last fatal on-duty accident occurred in 2011, killing Detective Fermin Archer. (A traffic enforcement agent on foot was fatally struck by a car last year.)
That Officer Williams was thrown from the rear of the van, where he was seated, suggested he was not wearing a belt, officials said, though that remained under investigation.
The officers injured on Sunday were taken to Lincoln Hospital, Jacobi Medical Center and St. Barnabas Hospital. All had been traveling from the 47th Precinct, a sprawling section of the north Bronx where gun violence and murder has spiked this year, to the climate march or other security assignments connected with the session of the United Nations General Assembly that begins this week, the police said.
“I didn’t really expect this to happen today,” said a rookie officer who, like Officer Williams, was usually assigned to Operation Impact in the 47th Precinct. “It could have been any one of us in there.” The rookie, who declined to be identified because he did not have permission to speak to the press, said a group of young officers from the precinct had visited their colleagues in the hospital on Sunday morning. He described Officer Williams as a “good kid” who kept to himself.
Of the nine officers in the van, Officer Williams was one of six who joined the department this year. The other three, including the 32-year-old driver who was not identified by the police, joined the department in July 2012.