Queens Leaders Push to Find Driver in Fatal Northern Blvd. Hit-and-Run
LONG ISLAND CITY — Queens leaders are seeking justice in a hit-and-run last week that killed a grandfather of six, sparking calls for traffic safety improvements on busy Northern Boulevard.
Kumar Ragunath, 64, of Jamaica, was crossing Northern Boulevard near 41st Road outside of the crosswalk last week when he was struck by a dark-colored Chevy Blazer, according to police. The driver fled the scene, and Ragunath died from his injuries the following day.
No arrests had been made as of Monday morning, the NYPD said.
At a press conference last week, local leaders called for the unidentified driver to come forward and asked for anyone with information about the incident to contact police.
"This is not a victimless crime — this is a deadly murder that took place at this location," City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer said. "We have got to bring this person to justice and give this family some degree of peace."
Ragunath had been on his way to the second day of his job at the nearby Holiday Inn at the time of the incident, family told DNAinfo earlier this week. He had taken the job to help send his grandchildren to college.
"Everybody liked him, he was very generous," wife Nasha Ragunath said earlier this week. "If he had the last penny, and somebody asked him for it, he would give it to them."
Elected officials on Friday said Ragunath's death is another reminder of the need for traffic safety improvements on Northern Boulevard, which has been the scene of two other recent crashes involving pedestrians.
Four people were struck and injured last month — none fatally — while waiting at a bus stop at the corner of Northern Boulevard and 48th Street in Woodside. In December, 8-year-old Noshat Nahian was killed while crossing Northern Boulevard at 61st Street after being struck by a tractor trailer driven by a man whose license had been suspended.
"Northern Boulevard is rivaling any other in Queens as the deadliest boulevard, the deadliest road," Van Bramer said.
A report from the Tri-State Transportation Campaign named Northern Boulevard as one of the "most dangerous road for walking," in Queens, citing five pedestrian deaths on the street between 2010 and 2012.
Officials renewed their push for Northern Boulevard to be included as one of the first 50 roadways to get safety improvements under Mayor Bill de Blasio's "Vision Zero," traffic plan, which seeks to reduce pedestrian injuries and fatalities.
Advocates also called for more speed cameras to be installed on the city's streets.
"There are a number of things we can do," said state Sen. Michael Gianaris, who recently authored a bill that would increase the penalty for suspended drivers who kill or seriously injure someone from a misdemeanor to a felony.
"In this case, we don't even know if this driver was suspended or unlicensed," because the driver fled the scene, Gianaris said Friday. "Which is even worse."
Near the spot where Ragunath was killed, someone had fastened bouquets of flowers to a subway pillar, as well as a sign that read: "Kumar Rest in Peace. Driver Turn Yourself In!"
"The person who killed Kumar and took off needs to come forward," Cristina Furlong, of the transportation advocacy group Make Queens Safer, said at Friday's press conference, adding that the driver "needs to recognize the crime and give his family some justice."