A car traveling in Manhattan late Thursday morning fatally struck an 18-year-old tourist and injured 22 pedestrians, authorities confirmed. The incident occurred at the heart of Times Square – 44th Street and Seventh Avenue – when the driver of a Honda sped the wrong way up a Seventh Avenue sidewalk and mowed over pedestrians. The driver crashed into a pole at 45th Street, and the car caught fire.
Eighteen-year-old Alyssa Elsman of Michigan was killed at the scene. The other 22 victims suffered various injuries and were taken to local hospitals.
Police told news outlets that the driver, 26-year-old Richard Rojas from the Bronx, was allegedly high on drugs at the time — possibly synthetic marijuana — which would have impaired his ability to drive. Witnesses said it seemed Rojas was intentionally driving into the crowded area. Police have ruled out terrorism, but are still investigating a motive and the charges are pending.
According to NYPD Commissioner James P. O’Neill’s statement, a preliminary investigation revealed that Rojas, a Naval veteran, has two arrests for DWI-related incidents. His alcohol test came back negative on Thursday but his drug test came back positive for PCP on Friday morning.
Sullivan Papain Block McGrath Coffinas & Cannavo, P.C. has won many jury verdicts and achieved substantial settlements on behalf of clients who have been severely injured or killed in motor vehicle accidents caused by impaired or intoxicated drivers.