Families of Bronx River Parkway victims sue city and state

Two families that lost seven members in a tragic accident that sent their van flying off the Bronx River Parkway are suing the city and state, charging dangerous conditions along the roadway were well known for years.

The law firm of Gair, Gair, Conason, Steigman, Mackauf, Bloom and Rubinowitz filed notices of claim on Monday, July 23, with the city as well as intent to file claim with the state involving the April 29 accident on the elevated southbound stretch of the parkway at E. 180th Street.

The firm represents the estates of five of the passengers killed.

The accident occurred when the SUV driven by Maria Gonzalez hit the center median, propelling it across three lanes, hitting a low wall on the western edge of the roadway and catapulting it over the side, 59 feet below onto the wooded grounds of the Bronx Zoo.

Killed in the crash along with Gonzalez were 85-year-old Jacob Nunez and 81-year-old Ana Julia Martinez, both from the Dominican Republic, 39-year-old Maria Nunez, 10-year-old Jocelyn Gonzalez, the daughter of the driver, and 7-year-old Niely Rosario and 3-year-old Marly Rosario.

An investigation by the law firm revealed a history of similar accidents in the area as well as dangers involved in the design of the parkway, well known, the firm charged, by both city and state officials.

During the 1990s, the engineering firm Hardesty and Hanover did a study of the area and discovered that not only was the geometry of the roadway unsafe, but it was also in violation of numerous safety standards including the New York State Highway Design Manual and those of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation officials.

Among the unsafe conditions documented by the engineers, were the narrow lane width, the lack of shoulders, and the 18-inch high curb, which had the effect of causing a vehicle to be catapulted over the edge of the curb instead of being contained in the roadway as the highway-standard “Jersey Barriers” are designed to do.

Jersey Barriers were installed next to the curb at issue shortly following this tragic accident.

According to lawyers for the firm, their investigation also revealed negligence by both the city and state by ignoring the hazardous conditions for so many years.

Lawyers believe the state and city chose to ignore an accident caused by a curb along the center median in virtually the same area in 2006, when five people were killed as a result of a cross over.

After the most recent fatal accident, the Jersey barriers were finally placed along the western edge, the firm said.

“The city and state knew there were structural problems in that area,” said Christopher Sallay, lawyer representing the families. “They have reports dating back ten years showing that the roadway in dangerous. They put ‘Jersey Barriers’ along the median after the accident in 2006, there was no reason they couldn’t have put them along the side. They needed seven people to die before they put them up? The negligence is egregious.”

Kirsten Sanchez can be reach via e-mail at ksanchez@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 742-3394

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