Late last week, an Irish national, Kevin Bell, was struck and killed by a Bronx hit and run driver as he was returning to his home for the summer in Woodlawn. According to the NY Post, the young man had been drinking in Manhattan prior to the accident. A witness claimed that the victim had laid down in the middle of the street just before being struck. Before the witness could get to Bell, he was struck by a car. The witness said that the car appeared to pull to the side briefly after the collision, but then continue driving.
Also disturbing about this incident is the manner in which the body was treated by the Medical Examiner after death. When the two ME’s arrived, photographs documented them placing the body in the back of the city ME van, which for some reason was filled with bags of recycling. The Office of the Medical Examiner has promised to investigate the incident to determine why the bags were in the van, and why the body was treated in such an undignified manner.
The legal consequences of the two aspects of this tragedy are somewhat tenuous. Should the driver of the car that struck Bell be identified, it is conceivable that he or she could be charged with leaving the scene of an accident. The driver could also be charged with a hit and run resulting in death, which is a felony and carries a fine and prison sentence. Based on the facts given by the Post, however, this seems unlikely. The victim laid down in the middle of the road, which was quite dark at 3:30 in the morning. The witness felt that the driver knew that he hit something. But a driver only has a duty to stop and identify himself if he knows or has reason to believe that he caused personal injury to another person while operating his vehicle. Under these circumstances, it seems equally likely that the driver thought he had it an animal or a speed bump than a human being lying in the middle of the road at 3:30 in the morning.
From a civil aspect, although the body was transported in an undignified manner, it is dubious whether a loss of sepulcher would arise out of this incident. Although placed next to refuse, the right of the next of kin to the body was not interfere with, as presumably the ME was transporting the body back with the proper purpose, albeit in an unorthodox and improper manner. There was no inadvertent disposition of the deceased’s remains, and no indication that the family was not notified as soon as practicable.
The Post’s story on this tragic hit and run can be found here.