BY DUSICA SUE MALESEVIC | (Posted May13, 2015, and updated May 15) Heather Hensl was walking to work when a driver
struck her on Beekman St. last month causing serious injuries — and says she won’t be able to walk on her own for four more weeks.
In a phone interview and by email, Hensl, a 37-year-old mother of two young girls, said police are about to close the case without charging the driver.
In her first public comments since the accident, she also described the crash, which has shaken Spruce Street School parents and has increased traffic enforcement nearby.
It was a regular day for Hensl, who has been working in Lower Manhattan since 2000. Her routine: exit the subway, go to Dunkin’ Donuts to grab a coffee and get to work. That morning, the physician assistant at NewYork Presbyterian Lower Manhattan Hospital was on her way to see patients when she was hit on the sidewalk — just feet away from the hospital doors.
She said she was walking on the sidewalk and had gotten out her work identification when she looked at a text message. She then felt slammed into a heavy piece of metal, said Hensl, who lives in Brooklyn.
“I didn’t see her coming at me,” she said.
She felt herself being propelled and thrown onto the sidewalk onto her back.
“I immediately knew that something was wrong with my left leg,” she said.
Dazed, she thought that someone had poured water over her head, when in reality it was blood running down her face from a cut. She said that something sharp had hit her head. A jogger then came over to her and told her that she had been hit by a car.
“Did they stop?” she asked.
Someone found her phone, which had flung out of her hand, and she was taken to New York Presbyterian by ambulance, circling around the block.
Hensl has suffered a large laceration (not visible from the photos she sent this newspaper) on her face and fractures in her leg — and has been unable to walk for the past month and has four more weeks to go. Her leg is in a brace and she has to use crutches. She may have to undergo surgery for her knee, but it is sure that she will have months of physical therapy.
Video of the accident viewed by Downtown Express showed the hit and run driver backing up several times to maneuver enough room to drive on the sidewalk and pass traffic.
“I never anticipated somebody getting around all that by driving on the sidewalk,” she said.
Hensl said that the police investigation has “moved very slowly.” It took a week and a half to run the plates, she said. The partial plate was traced to a woman in New Jersey. The police, she says, also have footage of her car on the Brooklyn Bridge.
While the police have identified the car, witnesses cannot positively say who was driving due to tinted windows. The same car was also involved in an incident in Brooklyn where an elderly woman was hit about 30 minutes after Hensl was struck on Beekman St.
“Unfortunately, I am writing this because the N.Y.P.D. has yet to bring the driver of the car which ran me over to justice,” she said in the email.
Since the woman lives in New Jersey, she said she was told that there was a jurisdiction issue — if it had been a more serious crime, such as a homicide, things would be different.
“It is terribly disheartening to hear that your life and your injuries don’t matter enough,” she said in an email. “I can tell you they are mattering to me, my patients whom I cannot care for, and to my family — specifically my 3- and 6-year-old daughters, who see me struggling daily to be the momma they are accustomed to having care for them.”
According to Hensl, the owner admitted to her insurance company adjuster that her car has not been stolen, that she has been the sole person driving the car, and that she was indeed driving the car in Lower Manhattan on April 13. First Precinct police initially said that if the driver were charged, it would only be for a misdemeanor, but they now say if they file, it would be for reckless endangerment,a felony, as well as for leaving the scene of an accident.
“They say this is not enough,” she said in an email. “My lawyer received a call on Saturday from the detective handling the case. They have requested the owner of the vehicle to come in for questioning … but if she fails to come in, which she is perfectly allowed to do, they will likely be closing the case.”
After the original version of this article was posted, Mark Iocco, commanding officer for the First Precinct, told Downtown Express Thursday that the case is still open and ongoing. He said he received an email from Hensl and asked her to meet in person.
“I let her know that I understand her frustration, I empathized with her,” he said.
Traffic enforcement officers from the First Precinct are down there, he said. He also requested the assistance of the traffic enforcement division, which will be enforcing parking violations. The precinct has also submitted a request for a crossing guard for Spruce Street School.
New traffic lights have been installed at Beekman St., but Hensl said that the root cause of the incident — the “irresponsible, reckless driver has not been held accountable for her crime. She could be driving in that area every day, potentially causing more suffering to the Downtown community.
“I would like to see this woman lose her license and her car,” she said. “I don’t want money. I want her to be held accountable for what she did. It’s unacceptable.”