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Queensborough Bridge accident driver sues city

Alexander Palacio, the driver in the second of three horrible car accidents that occurred within a short time period of each other on Queens Plaza South, is suing the city for negligence.
TimesLedger Newspapers

Lawsuits are coming down the pipeline involving three devastating accidents that took place earlier this year on the off-ramp from the Ed Koch-Queensboro Bridge to Queens Plaza South.

Alexander Palacio, the 39-year-old driver in one of the accidents, is suing the city as well as its Department of Transportation and Economic Development Corp. for negligence, the Queens county clerk said.

Palacio, who was driving a 2006 Volkswagen Jetta on the eastbound lower level off-ramp April 6 around 4 a.m., lost control of the car while exiting and struck two storefronts near Crescent Street: Villa de Beaute Salon and Espinal’s Caribbean Restaurant II.

He lost his arm in the accident and the passenger in his car, 40-year-old Beatriz Rodriguez, later died at Weill Cornell Hospital in Manhattan.

Palacio was arrested and arraigned on charges of driving without a valid license, the Queens district attorney’s office said. The criminal complaint said Palacio’s license had been suspended more than four times.

The crash was remarkably similar to one that happened March 29. Grant Riddell was operating a 2007 Volkswagen Rabbit on the same off-ramp around 4 a.m. and lost control of his car, smashing into the salon and the restaurant. Riddell’s car hit pedestrian Anthony Buscemi, who was killed. Riddell also lost his arm in the crash and his passenger, Melissa Cohen, received numerous injuries but survived.

Riddell was charged with vehicular assault, vehicular manslaughter, driving under the influence of alcohol and unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle, the DA said.

The salon and restaurant were still damaged from the Riddell crash when Palacio hit the stores.

A third similar crash happened in May. Concrete barriers had been erected by the city Department of Transportation in front of the stores, but a driver of a Volkswagen hit a livery cab and traveled over the barriers. The driver of the Volkswagen and the passenger received minor injuries, but the two people in the livery cab were unharmed.

The uncanny similarities between the first two crashes led local officials to criticize the DOT, which said the recently changed traffic pattern must have had an influence on the crashes.

The DOT said the ramp had remained unchanged since 2007.

The owners of the stores were also planning a lawsuit related to a crash and the drivers might be named in the suit, the New York Post reported.

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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