CHELSEA — A woman was hit and killed by a city garbage truck Wednesday morning after she tried to rescue her Boston Terrier that had bolted under the vehicle, witnesses and police said.
Jacqueline Haeflinger, 58, an events planner for New York University, was hit in the middle of the block on 15th Street between Seventh and Eighth avenues about 10 a.m., witnesses and FDNY officials said.
She had been walking her dog, Violet, down the block not far from their home when the pooch bolted free and ran beneath the Department of Sanitation truck, witnesses said. The garbage truck had been stopping and starting as it collected trash from the street.
"She had a leash and everything, but it got loose. The leash got away from her," said witness Edward Sanders, 50.
Haeflinger ran after Violet and reached under the wheels, just as the idling truck rumbled backward and crushed her, witnesses said.
"It just happened so fast. I was getting off my bike, then turned. She was reaching, trying to grab her dog and then she was under the truck before you know it," Sanders said.
Haeflinger was pronounced dead at the scene. Her dog survived and is being cared for by a friend.
''Violet was the baby," friend and neighbor Barbara Edelstein said. "She would do what she had to do to save the dog."
Edelstein added that Haeflinger had spent a lot of time deciding where to put Violet's bed after recently renovating her apartment.
Friends and neighbors were stunned by the loss of Haeflinger, who had a side business as a life coach and was friendly with those on the block.
"She always had a smile on her face. She was very calm, very mellow, a very upbeat person. She cared for her dog. She'd walk through here every day. The dog always seemed calm," said Jeffrey Purfield, 25, who works on 15th Street.
A Department of Sanitation spokeswoman confirmed that one of its waste collection trucks was involved in the fatal collision, but could not provide further information.
The NYPD's collision investigation squad was on the scene, a police spokeswoman said. No charges were expected to be brought in connection to the crash, the NYPD said.
Reps for NYU said Haeflinger would be missed.
"The NYU community is deeply saddened by the sudden and tragic death of Jackie Haeflinger, a cherished member of the University Events office," university spokesman John Beckman said. "For those of us involved in the University's major events — convocations, commencements, visits by heads of state — her absence will be keenly felt. Her family and loved ones are in our prayers."
Beckman praised her professionalism and said that she was popular with her co-workers.
"She was a devoted, longtime member of the NYU community whom many of us — myself included — knew well and admired for not only for her hard work and exacting standards but for her commitment to make every NYU event warm, gracious, and memorable for students, families, and faculty," he said.
Additional reporting by Tom Liddy.