Drunk Tour Bus Driver Kills Pedestrian in Hell's Kitchen, Cops Say
By Tom Liddy
DNAinfo News Editor
HELL'S KITCHEN — A Pennsylvania man visiting his cousin in the city was struck and killed by a drunken tour bus crossing a Hell's Kitchen street late Saturday night, police and family said.
The horrific scene unfolded at Ninth Avenue and West 47th Street just before midnight, after which police recovered a travel cup filled with vodka from the driver's cup holder, prosecutors said.
An open bottle of Smirnoff was found in the luggage compartment, according to court papers.
The driver of the Travel Lynx bus, Steve Drappel, of West Palm Beach, Fla., allegedly plowed into the 29-year-old victim as he made a turn from 47th Street on to Ninth Avenue. He was allegedly driving with a .08 blood alcohol level, the legal limit for non-commercial drivers in New York State.
The victim, Timothy White, of Philadelphia, was crossing Ninth Avenue when he was pinned under the bus, police said.
Once struck, he was dragged nearly a third of a block. He was rushed to Bellevue Hospital where he died, according to the criminal complaint.
White had been visiting one of his cousins in the city and was returning home from dinner when the tragedy struck, his family said.
"He was the perfect son," his father Robert White, 67, said Sunday from his Pennsylvania home.
The devastated dad said his son had battled health problems and "was an inspiration to all of us."
"Tim was a hero," his mom Julia said. "He was a hero to all of us."
Drappel was taking a group of about 50 travelers from Asia on a nighttime tour of the city when the crash happened, according to the tour operator, L & L Travel, which is based in Chinatown.
"They were taking a night tour," said Kevin Luong, 51, the company's safety manager.
"They finished their tour in Times Square and were heading back to their hotel in New Jersey."
Luong said passengers told him that the bus was travelling slowly and many inside were unaware of the carnage.
"They didn't know what was happening," Luong said. "It seemed like everything was normal until they heard the scream and someone was banging on the door of the bus.
"The driver stopped immediately."
Luong said that his company has been working with Travel Lynx for a while and there have been no problems.
"They have a good safety record," he said.
Of Drappel, he said: "I spoke to him once. He's a very nice gentleman. Very honest, polite."
L & L has suspended charters from the Florida-based Travel Lynx until it receives a further report from the company, Luong said.
"I was very shocked," he said. "I feel deeply sorry about the victim and extend our apologies to the family."
Drappel, 57, was charged with DWI, criminally negligent homicide and vehicular manslaughter. He was ordered held on $200,000 bond or $50,000 cash bail at his arraignment Sunday night.
A Florida number for Drappel connected to a fax machine.
A worker at the bus company's Palm Beach location, who refused to give her name, said: "We're all sad about this situation."