Jose Duran, a 35 year-old married father to three children, was killed in a freak truck accident on the Cross Bronx Expressway early yesterday morning. Duran, a truck driver from Springfield, Massachusetts, was driving west on the Cross Bronx Expressway near the Tremont section of the Bronx in a 2010 tractor trailer. A sewer cap violently and unexpectedly crashed into the windshield of Duran’s rig as he was navigating the ordinarily treacherous road. The sewer cap went through the windshield and struck him in the head, causing him to veer out of control and slam into another truck.
Duran lay helplessly in his truck on the road after the accident. He was rushed by emergency personnel to nearby Lincoln Hospital under dire circumstances. The doctors were unable to save his life. He was pronounced dead later that morning.
Duran leaves his wife Anna and three young children behind. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and loved ones. Their pain is difficult to imagine at this juncture, likely compounded by the sudden and senseless nature of their loss.
This tragedy leads to questions of accountability. The early speculation is that the sewer cap became dislodged after another truck ran over it. How can something like this happen? There are several potential causes. A manhole cover can become dislodged if it was not properly fitted for the opening. It can also become loose and ill fitted as a result of deterioration to the surrounding asphalt. For instance, if the asphalt surrounding the manhole is cracked, broken or in a state of disrepair, it may lead to the opening changing over time. This can lead to the cover being loose. The cover itself can become worn, leading to a fraying of the edges and it becoming loose. Still, most municipalities also employ an additional security measure to make sure sewer caps are not flying out of the covers. They use a retainer ring that supports the cover and offers compression, keeping it in place. The rings provide insurance against something like this but they are not a guarantee of anything. The ring may weather and, occasionally they are removed for professional reasons or by civilians bent on destruction. When they are not functioning properly or are removed, the manhole cover that they support will appear to be floating in the hole. This will frequently lead to manhole covers becoming dislodged. A manhole cover being dislodged is dangerous no matter the location. But, when you are talking about a crowded, thoroughfare filled with commercial trucks and cars like the Cross Bronx Expressway, a road that has been coined “The Highway to Hell,” the perils become that much greater. The Cross Bronx in a normally day has more than 175,000 vehicles travel on it. The questions about why this happen loom. A proper investigation by authorities may and should provide additional insight. We will be watching.
No question this was a freak accident and an obvious, tragic loss. Still, was it a preventable, freak accident? If so, who is responsible? The New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) is responsible for keeping the city’s streets in good repair. This includes everything from operating certain bridges in New York City to street repairs. It would also include making sure the asphalt around the sewer caps are in good repair. The New York City Department of Environmental Protection Bureau of Sewers is responsible for the sewer system. Their duties include ongoing construction and renovation of our sewer system, emergency response to problematic sewer issues and making sure that the water quality remains pure. So, both of these agencies have a responsibility to inspect the areas around the sewer cap. If either agency, or any other entity representing New York City, became aware of this problem and failed to correct it, then the City of New York will be responsible for this tragic loss. A thorough investigation and dogged discovery may lead to documentation that the City knew of this concern and failed to correct it. An experienced and savvy attorney will be able to help in this regard.
Block O’Toole & Murphy is a firm that is known for standing up to municipal giants like the City and holding them accountable. They have the power, money and resources to go the full 12 rounds with powerful opponents and have done it time and time again. They have amassed more than $750,000,000 in verdicts and settlements for their clients. Many of their results, including a $8,800,000 settlement, have been when they were pitted against the City of New York. You can learn more about them by reviewing their website at www.blockotoole.com. For a free consultation, you can call them at 212.736.5300.