A 73-year-old man in a wheelchair was struck and killed in Far Rockaway Saturday morning and a Long Island truck driver was arrested and charged with aggravated unlicensed driving, according to the Queens district attorney’s office.
Freddy Sasquilli, 42, was driving a 2013 International Harvester delivery truck near the intersection of Central Avenue and Nameoke Avenue just after 9 a.m. when he was stopped by a red light.
Video surveillance shows the 73-year-old victim crossing Central Avenue in his wheelchair in front of the truck. The truck proceeds to strike the unidentified man and then drag him down the block before pulling over. EMS responded to the scene and transported the victim to St. John’s Episcopal Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Sasquilli remained at the scene and told police from the 101st Precinct in Far Rockaway that “I was driving the truck and I didn’t see the guy in the wheelchair,” according to the criminal complaint. Sasquilli was unable to produce a valid driver’s license, and a check of the NYPD database revealed that Sasquilli’s driver’s license had been suspended three times, most recently in November, according to the complaint.
The NYPD’s Collision Investigation Squad continues to investigate the fatal crash.
Sasquilli was arraigned Saturday in Queens Criminal Court for aggravated unlicensed driving and other charges and he was released without bail. He is facing up to four years in prison if convicted.
Meanwhile, safe streets advocates are calling on the city to make crossings safer for pedestrians in the Rockaways.
“This crash occurred just blocks away from where 10-year-old Davina Afokoba was killed, and a month after 99-year-old Holocaust survivor Jack Milkulincer was killed in Brooklyn while he was crossing the street using an electric wheelchair. We refuse to live in a city where residents using wheelchairs or who live in Far Rockaway are more at risk of being killed in crashes,” Transportation Alternatives Executive Director Danny Harris said. “Urgent action and overdue investment by all levels of government are needed now to save lives on our streets.”
The advocates say that despite high pedestrian fatality counts, there are only six leading pedestrian intervals, which make crossings safer for pedestrians in the Rockaways.
“Our hearts ache for the family of the 73-year-old victim of this senseless act of traffic violence and for the entire Rockaway community mourning this loss and who must fear for their lives each day while crossing the street,” Families for Safe Streets member Lisa Martinez said. “I know the pain all too well, as my own beautiful mother was killed in front of my father while cycling just 10 blocks from their home in the Rockaways.”
Ada Martinez was struck and killed while riding her bike on Sept. 27, 2019.
“No one else should have to live through the nightmare of losing a loved one this way,” her daughter said. “We know what works to curb reckless driving and build safe streets. It’s up to our leaders to take the necessary steps to save lives.”
QNS reached out to the city DOT and is awaiting a response.