A fun vacation turned into a disaster when a New York taxi driver drove onto the sidewalk and hit a young British tourist, cutting off one of her feet and severely mangling the other. Thanks to quick action by nearby good Samaritans, including TV celebrity Dr. Oz, the tragic situation was handled as smoothly as emergency crews could have hoped.
23 year-old Sian Green, a fashion retailer at Hugo Boss, traveled to New York on Monday night with one of her best friends, Keshia Warren. The two Leicester, England women had matching tattoos on their arms that said “les amis,” French for “friends.” The fashionable women were more than excited for their trip, evidenced by the numerous “posts” on their various social media. One of Green’s posts included a photo of a countdown until the day of their departure, captioned “New York plzzzzz hurry up! #newyork #excited #August #lovinglife”. The joyful statement now seems ominous given the tragic events that took place upon their arrival.
On Tuesday at about 11:20 a.m., the two friends left the Hotel Pennsylvania and bought hot dogs at Sixth Avenue and 50th Street, excited to sample the staple New York treat, before beginning their day of site seeing. The two sat on the edge of a fountain in a busy plaza to catch some sun while they enjoyed their meal. Seemingly out of nowhere, a yellow taxi hopped onto the sidewalk at 49th Street and drove straight into Green, launching the small woman into the air from the impact and destroying her lower limbs.
A plumber, David Justino, has been deemed a hero for his actions at the scene of the car accident. With the help of food vendor, Mohammed Elsayed, and television’s Dr. Oz, Justino was able to fashion a tourniquet out of his Carhartt tool belt he was wearing and save the victim. Dr. Mehmet Oz has an office in the area and came running when he heard the commotion. Still covered in blood, he spoke to reporters after the terrible auto accident and credited Justino with Green’s life, saying, “The real hero of the day is plumber Dave, just an average Joe, an average Dave, just walking along the street, but he saved her life . . . It’s very smart thinking. A simple thing like a union plumber’s belt can save your life.” Oz wrote on his Facebook page, “I applaud the quick thinking and heroic actions of David and the first responders.”
Justino also spoke to reporters, but not of his heroic actions. Rather he spoke first about the remarkable composure of the victim during the accident, saying she was “a strong girl, a brave girl . . . Her leg was severed off, the other was mangled . . . From the shin down, it was gone. It was too much blood . . . She was conscious the whole time the poor thing. I wished she would have passed out.” The plumber was on his coffee break from a job working at Duane Reade nearby. When he saw Green “fly up in the air”, he ran to the scene to help. Police say that his first aid training was likely life saving. “I just grabbed my belt,” he said “went over, lifted her up, put it on, held it.” He described how Warren assisted as well, grabbing a dog leash from someone nearby and using to slow the bleeding in the other leg, “until Dr. Oz came over. He said we were doing good.”
Elsayed, who had just sold Green and Warren their hot dogs with ketchup and mustard, spoke to reporters about the incident. “Her leg was out” he said, “It was just under the cab on the sidewalk. I ran with ice and a bucket. We put the foot in the bucket. There was a lot of blood.” Clearly traumatized, Elsayed added, “She was awake, but she couldn’t talk”. The poor woman was shocked to scream. Fathy Mosad, another food vendor who witnessed the motor vehicle accident spoke to reporters with Elsayed, saying, “They were beautiful girls, smiling and so happy to be in New York.”
Photos of the car accident show Green’s severed foot, still in its sandal, resting underneath the taxi cab in the plaza. Physicians at Bellevue Hospital attempted to reattach Green’s foot but were unsuccessful. Two other people were hurt in the car crash and were treated for less serious injuries at Bellevue. Warren, a student at Leicester College, luckily escaped the auto crash largely unscathed, although the trauma of the accident has left her severely debilitated.
Green’s father, Jason, and his wife experienced every parent’s worst fear when their child travels. They trusted the responsible friends to travel abroad on their own, but no parent could ever anticipate the events that took place in the New York plaza. Green’s family rushed to New York to be with her during her treatment. Jason spoke to reporters outside their New Parks home before leaving for the airport, saying, “She is in recovery now, and they have had to amputate what’s left of her foot.” He went on to add that, “Her friend Keshia is still in shock. We are a really close family and we are all devastated by what has happened. We don’t know what to say. We just want to be at our daughter’s side right now.”
24 year-old cab driver Faysal Kabir Mohammad Himon and 40-year-old bike messenger Kenneth Olivo are pointing fingers at each other as to who really caused the tragic car accident. Himon claims that Olivo was angrily banging on the hood of his taxi while he rode by, which caused him to lose control of the vehicle. “I’m not sure what happened next,” he said “I was up on the curb.” Himon, a married Bangladeshi immigrant, has had a spotty driving record since he started driving a cab in 2010. His violations include a parking violation, a citation for cutting in line at a taxi stand, a citation for smoking in his cab, speeding, running a red light, and another unspecified moving violation. According to public records, this has resulted in nine points against his driver’s license. He has since been issued a summons for “unauthorized use.” The administrative violation cites those that fail to submit a form notifying the Taxi and Limousine Commission that he will be driving a particular cab or limo. Himon, while still putting the blame on Olivo, was openly remorseful about the accident. He said, “I feel really bad about the lady. I didn’t realize she was underneath my car. I’ll never forget her and I’ll never forgive myself . . . Nothing like this has ever happened to me before.”
Biker Olivo told a different account of the car accident to New York police officers. He insists that the aggressive taxi driver caused the accident by attempting to hit him, but then lost control of the vehicle. The biker claims both he and Himon were traveling north on Sixth Avenue and that while he was biking on the right side of the cab, Himon became agitated and beeped his horn at the bicyclist. “I told him to stop because I’m trying to go forward and people are crossing,” he said, “He loses his patience. He gets angry. He accelerates. Hits me.” Olivo, who was wearing a bandage on his leg from injuries sustained in the auto accident, added suddenly, “I’m on the roof of a car like in a Steven Seagal movie, okay. And I’m on the sidewalk. I’m like this looking up at the sky.”
21 year-old Fahad Munawar, a tourist from Texas, was sitting on the ledge on the other side of the fountain when the accident happened. He said he turned his head and saw the taxi speeding straight into Green. “It looked like it was out of control. We didn’t even hear the brakes,” he said. The next thing he heard was a woman “screaming on the other side.” Another man, 27 year-old Louis Burgdorf, witnessed the car accident from his second floor office window in Rockefeller Plaza. “It was terrifying,” he said, “but good Samaritans sprung into action quickly. If this woman survives, it is because people rushed over so quickly to help. It was crucial.”
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