Death of 91-year-old Bronx man fatally struck by driver while raking leaves highlights horror of senior traffic deaths around NYC

Bronx senior
File photo/Adrian Childress

A 91-year-old Bronx man was killed last week by a motorist as he raked leaves outside his Morris Park home, the latest death of an older New Yorker on the city’s streets.

Police say that about 5:30 pm on Nov. 11, Simone Canepa was raking leaves by his Radcliff Avenue home when he was struck by a 59-year-old woman driving a Hyundai sedan, who was driving westbound on Rhinelander Avenue.

Canepa sustained severe head trauma and was transported to Jacobi Hospital, where he succumbed to his injuries the following day.

The Hyundai driver, who did not suffer any injuries, remained on the scene. The incident remains under investigation by the NYPD’s Highway Collision Investigation Squad.

91-year-old Simone Canepa was fatally struck by a driver while raking leaves outside his home.Google Maps

Senior citizens like Canepa are uniquely liable to face serious injury or death from traffic collisions. Seniors make up less than 15% of the city’s population but more than 45% of its traffic fatalities, the Department of Transportation found in a report released this year; in the Bronx, seniors are 12% of the population but make up 31% of traffic deaths.

The streets appear to be getting more dangerous for seniors each year, the report found: from 2010-12, an average of 33% of traffic fatalities were composed of seniors, but in 2017-19, the average was 47%. Seniors made up more than half of traffic fatalities in 2017.

A woman attempts to cross Fort Washington Avenue in Washington Heights.File Photo by Kevin Duggan

Canepa joins an unfortunate list of seniors taken on city streets this year that includes 99-year-old Jack Mikulincer, a Holocaust survivor who was killed by a BMW SUV driver in February as he crossed the street in his electric wheelchair scooter, en route to his synagogue to observe the Sabbath, in Manhattan Beach, Brooklyn.

Born in Czechoslovakia, Mikulincer had been confined to the Stanislawow Ghetto before fighting the Nazis as a cook and interpreter for the Red Army.

In October, 79-year-old Loraine Hector was killed in Flatbush, Brooklyn by the driver of a B6 bus as she attempted to cross the street. A few weeks later, another 79-year-old woman in Flatbush, Verna McKnight, was exiting her parked car when she was struck by the driver of a white van, who fled the scene. The owner of a local beauty salon, McKnight was a well-known fixture in her community.

An outsize number of traffic deaths have taken place in the Bronx this year, according to city data analyzed by advocacy group Transportation Alternatives: 53 deaths have taken place this year in the northernmost borough. Canepa’s home neighborhood is particularly deadly: Council District 13 is tied for both the highest number of traffic deaths this year, at 10, and the most senior deaths at 3.

“Raking leaves should not be a death sentence. Yet our city’s failure to build safe streets in every neighborhood has led to another preventable act of traffic violence,” said Families for Safe Streets member Irma Rosenblatt, who lost her 88-year-old mother to a traffic collision in Riverdale in 2014. “Fatalities in the Bronx are higher at this point in the year than any other year under Vision Zero. We need action now to protect New Yorkers, especially our seniors.”

Earlier this year, DOT announced an initiative to make several dozen intersections safer in areas with high concentrations of seniors.

Approximately 187 people had been killed on the city’s streets as of Sept. 30, according to DOT data, a number that has increased in the ensuing weeks. On Tuesday, they were joined by 32-year-old Arfath Dewan of Jackson Heights, Queens, who died after being struck by a 19-year-old Mazda driver on 32nd Avenue.