By Bill Parry
Street safety activists from Make Queens Safer and Transportation Alternative Queens Committee have organized a vigil Saturday to honor Giovanni Ampuero, a 9-year-old Fresh Meadows boy who was struck and killed last Saturday by an elderly hit-and-run driver in Jackson Heights.
Ampuero was visiting his mother, Karen Manrique, at her home on 70th Street when both were struck in a crosswalk while trying to cross Northern Boulevard.
The driver, Juan Jimenez, 86, of Manhattan, was traveling northbound on 70th Street in his red Jeep Compass, around 1:20 p.m., when he made a left hand turn onto Northern Boulevard and struck Giovanni Ampuero and his mother, Karen Manrique, in the crosswalk before he drove off only to be located a short distance away where the driver was taken into custody, police said.
Police from the 115th Precinct found Ampuero with severe trauma to the head. EMS transported the boy to Elmhurst Hospital Center where he was pronounced dead, according to the NYPD. Manrique was not seriously injured.
“I’m sorry I hit the kid, I didn’t see him. I was driving home to Manhattan from the casino. I made a left turn onto Northern Boulevard two blocks away from here,” Jimenez told police, according to the criminal complaint. “When I made the turn, a woman jumped in front of my car, but I did not hit her. I kept driving and a cab driver waved me down and told me I hit someone. It was an accident.”
Jimenez was arrested and charged with leaving the scene of and accident, failure to yield to a pedestrian and failure to exercise due care. He was arraigned in Queens Criminal Court and ordered held on $20,000 bond.
When asked why he fled the scene, Jimenez told police “I was scared, some cab driver was threatening me,” according to the criminal complaint.
Jimenez is due back in court May 11.
A rally in honor of Ampuero was slated to begin at 5 p.m. Saturday at IS 230, located at 73-10 34th Ave. to be followed with a march to the boy’s makeshift memorial at the northwest corner of 70th Street and Northern Boulevard for a vigil.
“From where Giovanni was killed, I can see flags waving at IS 145 where Miguel Torres was killed and at PS 152 where Noshat Nahian was killed,” Make Queens Safer Co-founder Cristina Furlong said. “We have lobbied hard for piecemeal fixes that have saved lives — Queens Boulevard is an example. People are alive today because of the design standard that was implemented, sometimes against community board support, but that doesn’t negate the tremendous and endless pain of carrying on through such a tragedy for these parents and loved ones.They have no choice but to brave life with an unbearable loss, but the burden and obligation, if not mandate, should be put on the city, state and DMV to stop the killing of children, which in every case on Northern Boulevard involved a reckless driver and a deadly street design.”
Furlong and fellow Jackson Heights mother Dr. Laura Newman started Make Queens Safer in 2013 after what they called the “street carnage” on Northern Boulevard that took the lives of three children in less than 10 month.
“It pains and infuriates our community that Northern Boulevard may aptly be named ‘Boulevard of Children’s Deaths,” she said. “We insist that our electeds implement the proper infrastructure and enforcement to change that now. We need speed cameras in every school zone, We need immediate crossing light re-engineering so that pedestrians and drivers do not both get the green light simultaneously. And we demand a complete redesign of Northern Boulevard.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr