Dan Hanegby (via Facebook)
Security camera footage viewed by Gothamist this summer appeared to contradict the preliminary NYPD statements and media reports that Hanegby “swerved” away from a parked vehicle on the morning of June 12th before he was fatally struck on West 26th Street between Eighth and Seventh Avenues.
Lewis’s criminal complaint, made public today more than four months after the incident, has no account of Hanegby swerving. Rather, NYPD Detective Jose Diaz states that he viewed surveillance footage showing Hanegby riding his bike on West 26th Street ahead of the bus.
“I then observed on the video the bus attempt to and successfully overtake and pass said bicyclist, at which point the bus struck said bicyclist,” Diaz stated.
Bystander Michael O’Connor spoke to Lewis right after the crash, according to the complaint. Lewis allegedly told O’Connor that he saw Hanegby riding in the center of the road, then honked his horn but “wasn’t sure if the bicyclist heard him because the cyclist was wearing headphones.”
Lewis then allegedly passed the cyclist, “heard a commotion,” felt “something,” and looked in the bus mirror, seeing Hanegby on the ground. Hanegby was the first Citi Bike rider to die while using the bike share system, which launched in 2013.
Lewis, 52, appeared in Manhattan Criminal Court on a desk appearance ticket Tuesday, following his September 5th arrest. He stood silently alongside his private counsel in a suit jacket and matching slacks while prosecutors summarized the allegations. The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office then offered Lewis a plea deal amounting to a $1,000 fine, driver remediation classes, and a six month license suspension.
Lewis was charged under New York’s Right of Way Law, a misdemeanor leveraged against drivers who fail to exercise due care. Transit activists consider the 2015 law to be a hard-won victory, though the top consequences are relatively minor: up to thirty days in jail and $500 in fines. Lewis’s lesser charge is failure to exercise due care as a violation.
Jeremy Saland, Lewis’s lawyer, declined to say Tuesday whether his client will take the plea, and declined to comment on Hanegby’s alleged trajectory on West 26th Street, but insisted vehemently that his client is not at fault.
“First and foremost Mr. Lewis is distraught and upset,” Saland told Gothamist. “Obviously this was a horrific incident. And he feels for the family and the suffering they went through and will continue to go through. He’s a compassionate person. He’s an honest, good person. And unfortunately this is a terrible, horrendous accident, not a crime of intent, not a crime of recklessness, not a crime of negligencean accident.”
Following Lewis’s arrest, Transportation Alternatives spokeswoman Caroline Samponaro said stronger charges were merited.
“I think it’s another example of Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance not using his position to set a higher standard here,” she said. “We’ve seen the ways in which it still falls on the shoulders of the families of victims to insist that DAs bring more appropriate charges to better reflect the outcome of death. The fallback is not to do that.”
Steve Vaccaro, an attorney who often represents cyclists and pedestrians in traffic crashes, said drivers have been offered similar pleas in recent years. For example, the truck driver who struck and killed Mathieu Levefre as he biked in Williamsburg in 2011 got a six month license suspension. The dump truck driver who killed cyclist Hoyt Jacobs in 2015 got a $1,000 fine and driver remediation classes.
“Before the Vision Zero era professional drivers would get [their licenses revoked] for one or three months,” he said. “So this is in line with the more robust penalties that have been applied in the last few years in fatality cases. A fine and no jail time is very typically a resolution of a unclassified misdemeanor.”
“Very few unclassified misdemeanors result in someone’s death,” Vaccaro clarified. “This is towards the upper end of the penalties that you would face for public urination or riding a bike on the sidewalk.”
Lewis’s next court appearance has been set for January 9th. He was released on his own recognizance.
Hudson Trail Lines operates the private bus involved in the June crash. Spokesman Sean Hughes told Gothamist at the time that the company was cooperating with authorities and that “safety is our top priority.”
Hughes said Tuesday that Lewis is no longer employed by Hudson Trail Lines, but declined to clarify when he left the company, or whether he was fired in response to the fatal crash. Hughes also said that it would be “inappropriate” to comment on pending litigation.