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Driver in fatal Park Slope crash pleads not guilty on manslaughter charge

Two children were killed and two women injured when Dorothy Bruns struck them in Brooklyn, police said.

Detectives escort Dorothy Bruns, center, into a courtroom

Detectives escort Dorothy Bruns, center, into a courtroom at Brooklyn Supreme Court on Thursday. Photo Credit: Charles Eckert

The woman accused of killing two children and injuring two women with her car in Park Slope was indicted on manslaughter and other charges Thursday, as more details emerged about what allegedly led to the fatal March crash.

Dorothy Bruns, 44, was charged with two counts each of second-degree manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide and reckless endangerment, three counts of assault, as well as one count of reckless driving, police said. She also was charged with a red light violation of disobeying a traffic device.

Bruns, who whimpered and appeared confused as she was led out of the courtroom, pleaded not guilty during an arraignment in Brooklyn Supreme Court on Thursday, and was held in lieu of a $75,000 bond. Her driver’s license remains suspended.

Bruns allegedly barreled through the intersection of Fifth Avenue and Ninth Street on March 5, killing 4-year-old Abigail Blumenstein and 1-year-old Joshua Lew, who was in a stroller that was dragged halfway down the block by the car.

Their mothers, 33-year-old Lauren Lew and 34-year-old Ruth Ann Blumenstein, a pregnant Tony-award winning actress better known by her stage name Ruthie Ann Miles, also were injured in the crash. Blumenstein’s unborn child was unharmed.

Bruns’ next court appearance is scheduled for June 13.

Prosecutors detailed Bruns’ medical and driving history on Thursday, and said she was told by doctors not to drive.

On Jan. 8, Assistant District Attorney Craig Esswein said Bruns lost sensation in her left leg and was taken to Richmond University Hospital where she suffered a seizure and was referred to a neurologist. She was discharged two days later and told not to drive until she made a follow-up appointment, Esswein said.

On Jan. 20, Bruns was involved in a minor accident, but fled the scene, prosecutors said.

Esswein said Bruns was tested for epilepsy but the results were inconclusive. Still, Bruns was warned not to drive for a year, he said.

Bruns’ vehicle, a white Volvo, had also received a dozen parking and camera violations since July 2016, according to city summons data. The violations included four citations for failing to stop at a red light — three in Brooklyn and one in Queens — and another four for speeding in a school zone — one in Staten Island, one in Queens and two in Brooklyn, NYPD Chief of Transportation Thomas Chan has said.

It was not clear if Bruns had been driving the car at the time of those violations.

Following the fatal crash in Park Slope, Esswein said witnesses recounted Bruns to be “stiff, her head was looking up and her back was arched.” Another witness, he said, caught up to the car and saw that Bruns “was twitching and she appeared to be out of it.”

He said she was foaming at the mouth and suffered a seizure while she was being treated at the scene. She then suffered another seizure at the hospital.

Her attorney, David Jacobs, said the crash caused both her feet to be fractured, and two compression vertebrae fractures.

“She cannot walk on her own, she needs a walker,” he said, adding her neurologist gave her permission to go about “routine activities.”

Jacobs said Bruns worked for a phone company for hearing-impaired people and delivered heavy equipment by car.

Following the crash, Mayor Bill de Blasio said she should be arrested and never allowed to get behind the wheel of a car again.

Asked Thursday morning about the indictment, de Blasio said: “It’s not going to bring those kids back, but at least it shows that there’s going to be some accountability.

“As a citizen, as a father, I think it was the right thing to do. And I said it back at the time: I cannot understand why she wasn’t arrested. There’s no reason she should have been driving,” he said at an unrelated news conference in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn.

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez said Bruns “took the lives of two innocent babies,” which stemmed “solely from her selfish desire to drive.” He said prosecutors had spoken with her doctor who said while she was clear to work, she was not cleared to drive.

“We are going to continue to tell our drivers that if they [flout] the rules, if they drive when they are not safe to drive, they will be held accountable. They will face a judge and a jury,” Gonzalez said following the arraignment on Thursday. “This is not an accident. This was a crime. This was a collision. She should not have been behind the wheel.”

With Matthew Chayes

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