UPPER EAST SIDE — A young woman critically injured last week when a taxi spun onto the sidewalk after crashing with another cab is clinging to life at an Upper East Side Hospital while her family prays for her recovery and looks for answers about what happened.
Elizabeth Brody, 28, was just four blocks away from her home on July 24 when an SUV taxi was hit by a Crown Victoria cab and spun onto the sidewalk and hit her on the southeast corner of Second Avenue and East 79th Street.
The impact sent Brody airborne and head-on into a light pole, witnesses said.
She was rushed to New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center with head trauma and remained on life support Monday in critical but stable condition, her family said.
At the time of the accident, Brody, a two-time New York City Marathon runner, was on her way home from her job as a merchandise planner at AnnTaylor.com, her parents said.
“She’s a marathon runner, but she couldn’t outrun the cab,” Brody's mother, Alanna Brody, said as she sat in the hospital waiting room Monday with husband Mark Brody, of New Jersey, and daughter Jennifer Hyland, of Long Island. “She was in flip flops.”
Brody underwent head surgery the day after the accident, and doctors found her skull fracture was much worse than the CAT scan had detected, with a tremendous amount of internal bleeding,
“She would have suffered a stroke or worse without the surgery,” Alanna Brody said. “[The doctor] saved her life.”
Brody's parents and sister were wearing beaded bracelets that her friends made as a gesture supporting her recovery, saying “Team Liz.” They were staying at a hotel nearby, so they could be at the hospital as much as possible.
Elizabeth Brody developed pneumonia in her time in the hospital, but her family remained hopeful that she would recover from that, too, and soon be weaned off her respirator. They hoped their daughter’s high level of fitness would help her recover and return home.
When the doctors briefly brought Brody out of sedation, she was responsive, squeezing her relatives’ hands and blinking, her family said.
"I’m very hopeful she can restore a significant amount, if not all of her pre-accident functions. That would be a miracle,” Mark Brody said. “That’s the only reason I’m here day after day. Otherwise, I’d be too depressed."
The doctors, however, can’t yet reduce the sedative because of the risk of brain swelling, her dad said.
Brody's parents described their daughter as an adventurous young woman who traveled the world, zip-lining in Costa Rica and surfing in Australia. She was set for a trip to Greece in September, they said.
Brody grew up on Long Island and graduated from NYU, after which she went to work in the world of retail, first as a personal shopper at Bergdorf Goodman, then as an assistant buyer for Macy’s.com before she moved to Loehman’s and then Anne Taylor, her family said.
“She had New York City fever,” her dad said, recalling how he tried to convince her to go to a state school — even offering to throw in a car — instead of the pricey NYU.
But it was there where she blossomed, her sister said.
“It was the best thing she ever did,” said Hyland. “She came out of her shell. She got into running and travel.”
As the family spends their days in the hospital waiting room, holding out for clues to Brody's condition, they also were searching for more information about the crash — which they said has been hard to come by from police.
An NYPD spokesman said Monday the investigation remained active but no criminality was suspected “at this time.”
Alanna Brody said that a detective from the Highway Patrol unit was reviewing surveillance video from cameras around the intersection, and she hoped that would yield new insight into the accident. She also said that the Manhattan District Attorney's office reached out to her Monday and set up a meeting for this week.
A rep for the Manhattan DA's office declined to comment.
According to witness Evan Faulkenberry, who posted an account of the accident on DNAinfo.com, Liz Brody was starting to cross 79th Street, along with other pedestrians, when a loud screech of tires startled everyone, including Brody, and spurred them to race back to the sidewalk.
“[Liz Brody] had taken about three steps before the back left side of the SUV spun into her literally catapulting her about 5 ft into the air,” he wrote, noting that she went headlong into a light post.
“The crown vic was traveling WAY to [sic] fast to begin with,” he wrote. “The girl got hit as a result of the crown vic T-boning the SUV and then the SUV spinning out into the group who began to cross the road.”
Alanna Brody said if the driver is found to be at fault, she hopes prosecutors bring charges against him.
Liz Brody's case is the latest pedestrian crash victim whose case not yet resulted in charges, amid a wave of public criticism and scrutiny about the way the NYPD handles investigations of vehicular crashes.
At a February 2012 City Council hearing, the NYPD accident squad testified that they only investigate such accidents when there is a fatality or a victim who is likely to die — though there is a state law that requires the police to do an investigation in cases of both serious injuries and death.
Steve Vaccaro, a lawyer who has been working on this issue but has no connection to Liz Brody’s case, said that there was often unwritten “rule of two” in accidents, where a driver must be found breaking at least two traffic laws at the time of a crash to be charged with criminal negligence.
He wondered what the speed of the cabs were going in this case, and if one of them passed a red light, whether there were other conditions that could have made such an action reckless endangerment.
Running a red light in and of itself might be a violation, but not necessarily criminal, police have said.
“It is very upsetting to families, whether it’s a valid call or not, for the NYPD to announce ‘no criminality suspected,’ [right away],” Vaccaro said.
City Council members, outraged that drivers almost never face criminal charges even in fatalities — despite that reckless, illegal driving is often at play — recently proposed a package of bills that would set up a task force to reconfigure how traffic accident investigations are conducted.