EAST ELMHURST —An 8-month-old boy in a stroller was killed when a driver ran him over while backing out of a sidewalk parking spot on Astoria Boulevard Friday morning, police and witnesses said.
Navraj Raju was being pushed in the stroller by his 35-year-old mom, Daljit Kaur, near 92-20 Astoria Boulevard, near 93rd Street, when the driver of a white Ford van backed into the stroller at around 10:22 a.m., an NYPD spokeswoman said.
Navraj was knocked out of the stroller and the van kept backing up, running the boy over with the back tire, witnesses said.
Family friend Bhola Klair, 56, said Kaur had just picked up milk for her baby when she walked behind the van.
“She bent down to fix the blanket and the driver didn’t see her,” said Klair.
Witness Ahmed Ali, 26, said he heard Kaur shouting "Stop! Stop!"
Some passersby pulled Navraj from under the van, Ali said.
"One guy was touching the baby. Trying to see if it’s crying. It’s not crying," Ali said.
Navraj was pronounced dead at Elmhurst General Hospital, police said.
The driver, 44-year-old Armando Morales-Rodriguez, was taken into custody at the scene, police said. He was charged with operating the van without a license.
Kaur and the boy's father Karan Deep Raju arrived back home at about 6 p.m. Kaur was crying and so distraught that she needed to be helped into the house.
Daljit Kaur was distraught as she returned home after her son was killed by a driver backing up a van on Friday, Oct. 28. (DNAinfo/Ben Fractenberg)
“She’s in shock," Raju said outside his house. "Now they have to punish [the driver].”
Raju is a truck driver who was seven hours away in Pennsylvania when the tragedy occurred.
Navraj was remembered as joyful, family said.
"He was a very happy baby," said his great aunt, Rani Bedi.
"It's too much. I feel very bad," she added.
Rani Bedi choked back tears after her great nephew was fatally struck by a van. (DNAinfo/Ben Fractenberg)
His mother was proud of her two boys, but struggled to raise them both in the United States and had to send Navraj's older brother, 3, to live with his grandparents in India, Bedi said.
Navraj's death shocked residents and elected officials.
"It's just a tragedy. That it's only an 8-month-old baby and its life has been taken away," said local Carlos Lopez, 50.
Lopez said the stretch of sidewalk was particularly dangerous for pedestrians because of the small parking lot the van had been backing out of and the busy gas station next door.
"This is very dangerous over here. [With cars] backing out, you've got to be careful, especially during the day," Lopez said.
"I always feared something would happen here," he added.
One person was already injured in the nearby intersection earlier this year, city data shows. Four people were injured there in 2014 and one in 2013, the data shows.
Politicians said the boy's death justified stricter traffic safety measures in the city.
"Events like these should never happen," said Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras-Copeland.
"My office is monitoring the situation and will work with the NYPD, DOT and all stakeholders to ensure that this never happens again, on Astoria Boulevard or any street in New York City," she added.