Unlicensed driver cuffed for fatally running over a pedestrian with her SUV in Jackson Heights

An activist places a memorial sign at the corner of 37th Avenue and 81st Street, where an allegedly unlicensed driver fatally ran over a woman on Dec. 31, 2018.
Photo via Twitter/@makequeenssafer

Jackson Heights witnessed a horrific end to 2018 when an allegedly unlicensed driver ran over and killed a female pedestrian with her SUV, police reported.

Law enforcement sources said the deadly incident occurred at 12:45 p.m. on Dec. 31, 2018 at the corner of 37th Avenue and 81st Street.

According to authorities, Vitaliana Garcia Gavilan, 43, of Great Neck, Long Island was driving her 2008 Chevrolet Equinox westbound on 37th Avenue and, while turning northbound onto 81st Street, struck the unidentified female victim who was attempting to cross the street.

Police said that Gavilan allegedly drove over the pedestrian with the front right tire, then backed up and ran over the pedestrian a second time with the front right wheel. She stopped her vehicle and remained at the scene.

Officers from the 115th Precinct and EMS units responded to the scene. Paramedics rushed the female victim to Elmhurst Hospital, where she was pronounced dead; police did not disclose her identity, pending family notification.

Following a preliminary investigation, officers took Gavilan into custody on charges of aggravated unlicensed operator, failure to yield, a motor vehicle license violation (no license) and failure to use due care, causing a serious injury.

Additional charges are pending the results of an investigation by the NYPD Collision Investigation Squad.

“A pedestrian has been hit and killed by a car on the c/o of 37th Ave at 81st St.,” state Senator-elect Jessica Ramos, who represents the area, tweeted. “The driver failed to yield to the pedestrian as she was crossing. If you drive, please respect when pedestrians have the right of way. Stop, let them cross, and then turn. Save lives. #SeenIn13”