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Official: Bedroom where boy died in bus crash was illegally converted

David Granados was killed when a bus crashed

David Granados was killed when a bus crashed into his house on Fulton Street in Hempstead. (Nov. 27, 2012) Credit: handout

The front bedroom of a Hempstead house that was rammed by an out-of-control transit bus, killing a 6-year-old boy inside, had been illegally converted from a porch, the village building superintendent said Thursday.

The boy, David Granados, and his 7-year-old brother, Josue Molina, were inside, about 12 feet from the four-lane street, when the bus swerved to dodge what a source said was a drunken jaywalker and crashed into the converted bedroom.

The boy was pinned between the bus and the room before being taken to Winthrop-University Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 10:32 p.m. Tuesday, less than an hour after the crash.

The village superintendent, Arthur Chenault, said he didn't know when the porch-to-bedroom conversion occurred, but there were no permits issued. Property manager Matt Esposito said the conversion likely was done decades ago. The home, at 505 Fulton Ave., was purchased in 1974 by Esposito's grandfather Leo Diliberti, according to property records.

The two-story house became part of the Leo Diliberti Family Trust in June.

Esposito said Granados' mother, Mari Bel Molina, pays about $400 per month in rent and had moved in several months ago.

Diliberti pleaded guilty in 2006 to a charge of having a cellar used for sleeping, said village attorney Debra Urbano-DiSalvo. He was fined $500.

Afterward, the house was reinspected and village housing officials ruled it in compliance, she said. Since then, the village has received no complaints of overcrowding at the address, Urbano-DiSalvo said.

Inspectors were back at the house a day after the crash and concluded that while the house is taxed as a one-family dwelling, "it has not been used as a one-family house," Chenault said.

The property owner will be issued code violation summonses, but Chenault did not detail the specific violations.

Diliberti said he disagreed that he could rent the home only to a single family.

"We have differences of opinion on how we can operate," said Diliberti, 84, of Levittown. "It's a matter of whether you have to operate with a family, or rent to two or four or six strangers who want to live together. We had a hang-up."

Just before the bus crashed into the home, the jaywalker was "right in front" of the bus -- the N70 route of the recently privatized Nassau Inter-County Transit Express system -- leaving the driver little time to react, said Patricia Bowden, president of the Transport Workers Union Local 252, which represents the bus drivers.

"He couldn't do anything. He would have hit him," Bowden said. "What people don't understand is that a bus takes twice as long to stop as a car." Bowden said the driver, 50, did not learn until early the following morning that David had been killed.

"He feels awful about it," Bowden said. "This was definitely not his fault at all."

Police have ruled out criminal charges against the driver but haven't said whether they'll charge the jaywalker, a 35-year-old man, who was hit by the bus and suffered multiple injuries. The names of the driver and jaywalker have not been released.

According to bus company spokesman Andrew Kraus, the bus, which is run by Veolia Transportation, was outfitted with a so-called black box. The device records details such as how fast the bus was traveling as well as when and whether the brakes were applied. He said the bus also had an outward-facing video camera.

Authorities have not detailed what evidence, if any, is contained on either device, but Nassau police have said they don't believe the driver was speeding.

Kraus said the driver was placed on paid administrative leave after the crash, a standard practice that does not necessarily indicate wrongdoing. The driver has had an excellent safety record in his 16 years operating buses in Nassau, Bowden said.

Frank Schroeder, a former major-offense prosecutor in Nassau who now works as a civil lawyer in Uniondale, and who is not involved in the case, said if the pedestrian were charged with a crime, it could open the door for any jaywalker -- whether sober or intoxicated -- to be held criminally responsible for any accident that happens when vehicles swerve to avoid them.

"When a terrible tragedy like this happens, there can be a knee-jerk reaction to charge someone with a crime," he said. "But from what I know of this case, there is no justification for a homicide charge."

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