Local leaders, advocates call for public’s help to find fatal LIC hit-and-run driver


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com |

THE COURIER/Photo by Angy Altamirano
THE COURIER/Photo by Angy Altamirano

Kumar Ragunath was on his way to start the second day at his new job at the Holiday Inn in Long Island City, but never made it.

The 64-year-old grandfather was the victim of a fatal hit-and-run on March 7 after being struck on Northern Boulevard and 40th Road. Police found Ragunath at 10:25 p.m. unconscious and unresponsive with severe head trauma and a broken leg. He was taken to Elmhurst Hospital where he died the following day from his injuries.

Now, the Long Island City community is asking for the public’s help in finding the driver, who fled the scene in a dark colored Chevy Blazer.

“Kumar was a grandfather, he was a father, he left a family broken and grieving and that happens every 30 hours in this city,” said Juan Martinez, general counsel and legislative director of Transportation Alternatives.

Street safety advocates, elected officials and local leaders gathered Friday morning to call on the public to help track down the driver of the hit-and-run and also to emphasize the need of more speed and red light cameras on borough streets.

“We are here as a community to say never again and as we have pledged, every single time there is a serious injury and fatality to a pedestrian or cyclists we are going to speak out,” Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer said. “We are determined people, determined to make every single street safe”

Last month, four people were hit by a driver while they were waiting for a bus on Northern Boulevard and 48th Street. In December, 8-year-old Noshat Nahian was fatally struck on his way to school at a Northern Boulevard intersection in Woodside.

“We need to change the laws,” said State Senator Michael Gianaris, who introduced a bill in the Senate, which would charge drivers who continue to drive without a valid license and are in an accident that causes serious injury or death with vehicular assault. “We’re going to keep up the fight in the state legislature to make sure that New York City gets the attention it deserves, the safety it deserves.”

Van Bramer also added that Northern Boulevard is one of the deadliest roadways in Queens and he hopes it will be included as part of the first 50 thoroughfares to be focused on in Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Vision Zero initiative.

“Northern Boulevard screams for inclusion in Vision Zero,” he said.

Earlier this week Borough President Melinda Katz announced that the Borough Board had approved a package of expense and capital budget priorities that it wants included in the city’s budget for Fiscal Year 2015.

One of the priorities is improving traffic and pedestrian safety in Queens through increasing the number of Slow Zones, installing more pedestrian countdown signals and speed cameras, and increasing police presence.

 

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