NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — An NYPD traffic agent was struck and killed by a vehicle Saturday afternoon in an accident in Midtown, police said.
The crash happened at 44th Street between Fifth and Madison avenues Saturday afternoon, the FDNY Emergency Medical Services confirmed. The scene was at 6 E. 44th St., in front of the Cornell Club.
Police told 1010 WINS the victim was Kalyanarat Ranasinghe, 71, a NYPD Traffic Enforcement Agent.
Police say the enforcement agent was struck by a large truck and pinned under the vehicle. They say the truck’s driver remained at the scene.
He was taken to a nearby hospital, but died of his injuries once he arrived, WCBS 880 reported.
Witnesses described a horrific scene, 1010 WINS’ Gary Baumgarten reported.
“The guy was in front of the truck by the front right headlight, the truck clipped him, rolled over him, his leg got caught up in the truck, the guy didn’t move at all. We called 911 but there was no movement at all from the guy,” a witness said.
Some witnesses believe that Ranasinghe may have been too short for the driver of the vehicle to see.
“I saw the guy in front of the truck. I think he was on the cell phone. He picked up his head, the truck rolled over, knocked him over and then rolled over him,” Anthony Trinidad said.
Ranasinghe’s death was unbearable for his family, he left behind a wife and daughter who were overwhelmed by grief, CBS 2’s Hazel Sanchez reported.
“It is like a very big loss to our family. He was helping everyone,” Laharu Ka said.
Minutes later a Cornell University bus collided with the truck as Ranasinghe lay dying in the street, he could not be saved and co-workers were left visibly shaken.
The driver of the truck Ramesh Khan, 25, was taken to the hospital. His wife said that he was in shock.
“He’s very nervous because nothing like this ever happened before,” Desiree Ramnarayan said.
Cornell University released the following statement regarding the accident:
“I have been informed that one of our regularly scheduled Campus to Campus busses was struck by a vehicle after that vehicle reportedly struck and killed an NYPD traffic agent in Midtown earlier today,” the statement from Cornell University Director of Media Relations, John Carberry, read, “Our bus remained on the scene, and our driver is cooperating with law enforcement on the scene. The driver is not expected to be charged in connection with the accident, and Cornell University will continue to cooperate fully with local police as they investigate this tragic event. Of course, all our prayers go out to the family and friends of the traffic agent who was killed.”
Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly told reporters outside the scene that the job is a dangerous one and agents stand in the middle of heavy traffic.
“Of course it underscores how dangerous the job can be. He was in a roadway doing his job when he was struck and killed,” Kelly told a group of reporters that included WCBS 880’s Jim Smith.
Union Vice President Syed Rahim said that Ranasinghe had recently requested a job change.
“Ten days ago when he called me he did not feel comfortable doing the job directing traffic. He felt comfortable with his job writing a summons,” Rahim said.
Ranasinghe’s family said that he had taken on the duties to earn a higher salary to help support his family in the U.S. and abroad.
Traffic enforcement agents issue summonses to illegally parked cars, direct traffic at intersections and perform other traffic related tasks.
On Saturday evening, Mayor Michael Bloomberg issued the following statement regarding the accident.
“Earlier today, NYPD Traffic Enforcement Agent Kalyanarat Ranasinghe was struck and killed by a vehicle while on-duty in Midtown Manhattan. Kalyanarat, 71 years-old, served as member of the Department for more than six years. Every day, traffic enforcement agents play a critical role in making sure millions of New Yorkers can safely get to where they are going. The NYPD’s Collision Investigation Squad is conducting an investigation of this terrible tragedy. On behalf of the entire city of New York, our thoughts and prayers are with the Ranasinghe family.”
The investigation is ongoing.
(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)
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