NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — New York City police say a disabled man was found dead after he was left inside a van for six hours.
Police said 48-year-old Eason Alonzio was found unconscious and unresponsive Tuesday in the rear seat of a Ford Econoline in Harlem.
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Alonzio was pronounced dead at the scene.
The mentally disabled man was picked up with others at a group home in the East Village where they were all supposed to be dropped off at the Association for the Help of Retarded Children facility in East Harlem.
But police are investigating whether the van driver and the matron checked to see if Alonzio actually got off the van or whether he was left for more than five hours in the heat.
A passer-by saw Alonzio inside the van around 3:30 p.m. and alerted police.
It’s all too reminiscent of a case from July of last year when 20-year-old Brian Nevins, who was autistic, was left in a van by counselors in Pennsylvania for five hours. He died from the extreme heat inside the van.
In 2008, Theodore Pressman of Peekskill was charged with reckless endangerment for leaving his 84-year-old father inside a car that became overheated, killing the older gentleman.
CBS 2’s Pablo Guzman spoke with Courtney Burke, commissioner of New York State’s Office for People With Developmental Difficulties, by phone on Wednesday.
“It’s unacceptable. It should have been noted that he was absent for that long,” Burke said.
Besides an investigation, Commissioner Burke has demanded AHRC explain its practices for how people are accounted for. Guzman went to the driver’s home in Queens, but a woman there said he was not available.
At an address for the matron in Brooklyn, people there claimed they did not know who Guzman was talking about. There is a certain tension, because if the Medical Examiner rules that Eason’s death was a homicide, there could be arrests.
In a statement, AHRC said: “We are gathering the details of what transpired and have begun the process of thorough self-examination in this truly tragic incident in order to avoid incidents of this nature again.”
“It really reminds us of our responsibility that we have for oversight — and we’ve taken some immediate actions to deal with what we see as shortcomings in the system,” Burke said.
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