Source: Pedestrian that sparked fatal bus crash was drunk
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Investigators believe a pedestrian was drunk as he crossed a Hempstead Village street when a bus swerved to avoid him and slammed into a house, killing a 6-year-old boy inside, a source close to the investigation said Wednesday.
The NICE bus, with 11 passengers aboard, struck the 35-year-old Hempstead man at about 9:15 p.m., fracturing his skull, ribs and right clavicle before it barreled into the front of the Fulton Avenue two-story house and killed David Granados.
Witnesses interviewed by police at the scene of the Tuesday night crash told them the pedestrian jaywalked across the four-lane street, which has a marked crosswalk and traffic lights nearby, police said. He was taken to Nassau University Medical Center in East Meadow, police said.
The source would not say what led authorities to believe the man was drunk. The bus driver, 50, passed a breath test at the scene, the source said. Neither the pedestrian nor the driver's names had been released by Wednesday night.
"There is no reason to believe at all that the driver was intoxicated or speeding," based on the accounts of witnesses, Nassau police spokesman Insp. Kenneth Lack said Wednesday at a news conference.
Eight of the 11 passengers on the bus were treated for minor injuries at hospitals, police said.
Wednesday, family members and police described a nightmarish scene after the driver plowed the bus into the multifamily residence.
In an instant, David went from packing up for the next school day with his 7-year-old brother, Josue Molina, and putting on pajamas, to being pinned between the hulking, crashed bus and the inside of the bedroom.
Police said David was also struck by debris after the crash. Police, fire and medical personnel worked to free him and he was rushed to Winthrop-University Hospital in Mineola. The boy was pronounced dead at 10:32 p.m. Tuesday. David's parents were by his side, police said.
Josue was treated for minor injuries to both of his arms, police said.
The wall exploded, was how Josue described the impact.
"We were checking our homework, packing everything to go to school until the bus came and crashed," Josue said. "The bus kind of fell on my brother."
Police said the bus driver was heading west on Fulton Avenue, also known as Hempstead Turnpike, when he saw the pedestrian crossing northbound near Tennessee Avenue, just east of the home.
The driver honked his horn several times, but the pedestrian continued crossing. After swerving, the driver made a hard right, police said. He hit the pedestrian and crashed into the house, police said.
The morning after the crash, children's school worksheets, a coloring book and a Scooby-Doo pillow lay amid household items, bricks and siding piled in front of the house.
Diliah Rodriguez, 51, a crossing guard near the house, said she helped David cross the street almost daily on his way to elementary school.
"How am I feeling?" Rodriguez said. "I feel like they killed my heart because it was a little boy, 6 years old. He had all his life ahead."
The bus is part of the Nassau Inter-County Express system, officials said. NICE officials said in a statement Wednesday morning that they are cooperating with police and offered "heartfelt sympathy" to David's family. The company also said its own team is investigating the crash.
The owner of the house, Leo Diliberti, said the occupants of the house were good tenants.
"They're excellent people -- never give us any trouble," Diliberti, 84, of Levittown, said Tuesday night after hearing about the crash. "It's a tragedy."
Diliberti went to the scene just after the accident, but police would not let him go up to the house.
"They told us we couldn't get to the house," he said. "It's not structurally sound . . . I'm so sorry. The damage is nothing. The child is what's important. It's just a shame. It just broke our hearts."