Volume 20 Issue 20 | Sept. 28 - Oct. 04, 2007

Downtown Express photo by Elizabeth Proitsis

Ongoing road work at W. Houston St. at Sixth Ave., part of the Houston St. reconstruction project.

Woman killed by truck on Houston St.

A woman walking across W. Houston St. at Sixth Ave. on Tuesday morning was struck and killed by a truck that was fleeing from a traffic crash, police said.

Hope Miller, 28, an aspiring actor who lived at 88-29 54th Ave. in Queens, was hit by the truck at 7:13 a.m. She was taken to St. Vincent’s Hospital, where she was pronounced dead on arrival. The truck driver, Roger Smiley, 48, of Knickerbocker Ave. in Brooklyn, was also brought to St. Vincent’s and was reported in stable condition. He was charged with leaving the scene of an accident, driving under the influence of drugs and resisting arrest.

A police spokesperson said Smiley sped off from his collision with another truck on Sixth Ave. near Spring St. and did not drive away after hitting Miller.

Deputy Inspector Anthony Bologna, commanding officer of the First Precinct, said after crashing into another truck, the suspect then fled the scene when the driver got out to confront Smiley. The suspect stopped at a traffic light on Sixth Ave. but ran over Miller as he made a fast turn onto W. Houston St. after the other driver again approached, Bologna said. Smiley told police that he had suffered a seizure after he rear-ended the truck.

According to witness accounts, corroborated by a police spokesperson, Smiley tried to speed off as the driver of the first truck yelled after him to give him his information. Jonathan Geballe, president of the W. Houston St. Block Association, said a bloodstain was left in the Houston St. crosswalk about 10 feet from the intersection’s southeast corner.

Geballe said he had just gotten up on Tuesday morning when he looked out his window and saw police cars and fire trucks speeding to the scene. He rushed out to find his building superintendent, Bob Lisnak, already there. Although Lisnak hadn’t actually witnessed the accident, he told Geballe he had seen the woman lying injured on the street, that she had been jerking, then went still.

Geballe said firefighters from the Engine 24/Ladder 5 firehouse across the street had tried to revive her. She was put into an ambulance, which drove off without its siren on, indicating she was probably already dead, Geballe said. The woman was reportedly wearing blue jeans, a white shirt and a red-and-blue sweater.

Geballe said that making matters more dangerous is the ongoing Houston St. renovation project, which has cluttered the intersection with concrete barriers, metal street plates and directional signs, and chopped up the street and medians.

In June 2006, there was another fatality associated with the reconstruction project when Derek Lake, 23, was killed at LaGuardia Pl. and Houston St. after his bike slipped on a metal street plate and he fell under an 18-wheel truck.

The Houston St. reconstruction project started in August 2005 and was expected to take two and a half years to complete. However, a news report on Tuesday after Miller’s death said the city now is trying to expedite the work and finish by this Halloween.

Councilmember Alan Gerson has complained for months about construction barriers at the site on the southwest corner of the intersection that created a bottleneck. Gerson said that while the barriers may not have been directly related to the accident, they have made the intersection hazardous and there should have been a traffic agent at the site, especially during the morning rush hour.

In fact, the night before the accident, Gerson told Chinatown residents at a traffic safety meeting that he was continuing his fight with the city to make Houston St. safer.

— Lincoln Anderson, Albert Amateau and Josh Rogers

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