Police / Transportation

Trip to laundromat ends tragically for local woman

Victim, 55, run over by idling trucker on Seneca Ave.

More than a month after a 16-wheel box truck struck and killed a Hunts Point woman, residents and shopkeepers around Seneca and Bryant avenues are slowly coming to terms with the loss of a neighborhood friend.

Around 8:30 a.m. on Nov. 5, 55-year-old Floria “Pat” Burton attempted to cross Seneca Avenue when the truck, double-parked and idling at the corner, ran her over, dragged her to the far corner of the intersection, then reversed and ran over her again

Her neighbor and friend, Maritza Dejesus, 50, witnessed the accident and to date can barely accept the reality that Burton is no longer alive.

Dejesus said Burton, who was pushing her laundry in a cart on the way to the laundromat, walked in front of the truck, waving and yelling something to the driver as she did. But video from the corner store shows Burton on the passenger side of the truck’s cab, well below the view of the driver.

The driver then pulled away from the corner and only stopped when people started screaming and banging on his door, telling him someone was under his truck. The intersection of Seneca and Bryant has no stoplight, nor is there a stop sign on Seneca or a painted crosswalk at that corner.

“People started yelling and that’s what drew his attention and caused the driver to stop,” said a police official.

Dejesus and other passersby ran up to the truck to help Burton, but it was too late.

“Pat wasn’t recognizing nobody. When the ambulance and Fire Department came, Pat was already gone. All she was doing was bleeding,” said Dejesus. “He killed her instantly when he dragged her. And the laundry cart and her were pinned with the tire.”

The 44-year-old driver was given a Breathalyzer test on the scene and his license and registration checked, but no arrest was made, police said.

Still shaken up from what she had seen, Dejesus explained that since the incident she has not been able to sleep well.

“It was a nightmare to me,” said Dejesus. “And I’m still scared to cross that corner because that’s where I go to get my coffee every morning.”

Burton lived on Bryant Avenue, according to Dejesus, with her partner, whom she named only as Debra. She had two children who were raised by other family members, and two grandchildren. Burton was buried on Nov. 13.

Jose Castillo, who works at Seneca Grocery Store, knew Burton and Debra as regulars.

“She would normally come in the shop with her wife to pick up a few stuff,” he said as he attended to a man who was selecting his lottery numbers. “They were both nice ladies, too.”

That morning, witnesses told Castillo about the accident, but he did not go out to see the after effects – fearing that the scene would be permanently etched in his mind.

“People came into my shop saying ‘Hey! Hey! There’s an accident outside’ but I did not go out because people were saying she had blood coming from her mouth,” Castillo said. “I didn’t want to see her like that.”

Just at that moment, as Castillo was recalling the day of the accident, a truck making a right turn on Bryant Avenue ran into a car that was parked at the corner.

“Oh my God! Did you see that?” yelled Jamie Marcelino Guerrero, who was standing outside Castillo’s store. The truck was at that point reversing quickly.

On the day of the accident, Guerrero said she was awakened by the commotion on the street and went downstairs.

“I saw the laundry cart and the truck,” she said. “After seeing the laundry bag, I started throwing up. She didn’t deserve to die like that.”

Dejesus thinks the accident will bring some awareness to the truck traffic that passes through the residential areas of Hunts Point. She says this was not the case when she moved to the neighborhood 38 years ago. She worries about children who travel to school without their parents to watch out for them. The city should reroute the trucks or install speed bumps, she said.

“We are trying to get the big trucks to go somewhere else,” said Dejesus.

Pastor Reggie Stutzman of the Real Life Church said he has discussed finding a solution for that intersection with Community Board 2.

“As a result of the accident, we need to have a dialogue with different city agencies, so that we can look at the concerns of the residents in that vicinity,” said Stutzman, who held a memorial prayer service for Burton in her building with neighbors. “We can have a sit down talk and get DOT involved.”

Board 2’s District Manager Rafael Salamanca said residents in that vicinity would appreciate speed bumps, especially on Bryant Avenue because it is a long straight road. But since Seneca has a slope, speed bumps would be dangerous in slippery weather conditions.

“After the accident, I visited the area, and we are seriously looking at the location,” he said. “Speed bumps or a stop sign is needed.”

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