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Queens Chronicle

Queensboro Bridge mess court-bound

Lawsuits against both the city and drivers involved in car crashes

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Posted: Thursday, December 8, 2011 12:00 pm | Updated: 2:03 pm, Thu Dec 15, 2011.

Last spring and summer, three cars exiting the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge into Queens on different days flew off the same ramp and crashed in almost the same place: into or near two unlucky Queens Plaza South businesses, destroying both the first two times, which prompted the installation of concrete barriers. The first crash in March resulted in the death of a pedestrian, and the second, just nine days later, resulted in the death of a passenger.

Now Alexander Palacio, 39, the driver in the second crash — which occurred on April 6 — is suing the city for negligence, according to published reports, alleging that the exit ramp was made more dangerous by alterations the city made previously. Palacio was amputated as a result of the crash and the passenger of the car, Beatriz Rodriguez, 40, died.

In addition to Palacio’s lawsuit, Scott Agulnick, a lawyer for the two businesses in question, said his clients would also be filing suits against the city by the end of the year, as well as suits against all relevant parties in the first two crashes.

“The damage was catastrophic,” Agulnick said, describing how the wall of Espinal’s Caribbean Restaurant II completely caved in after the first crash. New business and neighbor Villa de Beaute salon was also destroyed.

“I wouldn’t park there if I were you,” Agulnick said of the spot where the crashes took place.

A spokesman for the DOT wrote in a statement that since the crashes, rumble strips, a speed board, curve warning and speed-limit signs, flashing yellow lights and improved striping to the off ramp, as well as highly reflective tape on the ramp’s final turn, have been installed.

However, the DOT spokesman also wrote that “the bridge’s off-ramp geometry has not changed since 2007.”

But Agulnick said the exit had been altered during more recent improvements, so that the ramp involved “a curve and a merge and a turn at the same time.”

“Speed alone would not have resulted in this,” he added.

Driver Palacio is facing criminal charges relating to driving without a license when the crash occurred, according to the Queens District Attorney’s office. Grant Riddell, the driver in the first crash — which occurred on March 28 — is being charged with manslaughter in the second degree for killing pedestrian Anthony Buscemi, as well as vehicular assault in the first and second degrees, aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle in the third degree and two counts of operating a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

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