What caused a car to hop a Lower East Side curb on Tuesday and injure a 78-year-old woman and six-year-old boy? A double-decker sightseeing bus, according to a tourist who’s seeing red.
“It was strictly the tour bus’s fault,” says Saleh Al-Ghafari, whose fiancé’s grandmother, Anna M. Kiewitz, and little brother, Marwin Kiewitz, were injured in the crash. Al-Ghafari lives in the DC area, where his fiancé’s family—who reside in Germany—were visiting the pair. The group arrived in Manhattan Tuesday morning. They chose Gray Line New York Sightseeing Tours because of the minimal wait times advertised, out of concern for the old and young members of their party. Things did not go as planned.
According to Al-Ghafari, the family found themselves waiting for long stretches on their tour, in stifling summer heat; the tour bus had four stops to go when their guide announced that they would return directly to the main terminal at Times Square.
Al-Ghafari says he and others protested, and the tour guide ordered them off the bus. The vehicle halted in the middle of the street, and several passengers complied. “Our family got off the bus as well,” says Al-Ghafari. “They went out onto the sidewalk to sit under an awning.” Al-Ghafari himself remained on the bus, arguing with the driver. The driver, unsure what to do, called his manager.
“So I called [my family] and said come back on the bus,” Al-Ghafari recalls. “And at that second the car came off the road and drove into the storefront. And I strongly believe that the reason the car did that—I mean, obviously the driver wasn’t paying enough attention—but it was because the bus was stopped in the middle of the street. I think the guy was going to rear-end the bus and decided to avoid it by turning to the right, and there wasn’t enough breaking space for him.” (When we arrived on the scene, the bus was pulled up to the curb at an angle, with its rear end jutting into traffic.)
Luckily, Mrs. Kiewitz acted quickly to pick up the child. He landed on the hood of the car and had only minor injuries. She, on the other hand, sustained serious injuries to her leg and is now recovering in hospital after emergency surgery.
Al-Ghafari is “definitely” considering legal action, and is represented by attorney Joel Robinson. “We’re certainly going to take legal action against the motorist who entered the sidewalk and mowed down Mrs Kiewitz and her grandson Marwin,” says Robinson, “and we’re considering taking legal action against Gray Line Bus Tours for their negligence.” A representative of Gray Line New York said that no complaint had yet been filed regarding the incident.
Al-Ghafari also deplored the ineffectiveness of the NYPD, who he claims later allowed the driver to drive away from the scene. “In DC if a guy hits a cat they’re not going to drive off the scene,” he said.