By Maria Rocha-Buschel
Police arrested 32-year-old James Wilmarth last Tuesday in connection with the death of a Chelsea resident after a vehicle collision earlier this month. Police charged Wilmarth with failure to yield to a pedestrian or bicyclist, an administrative charge, and failure to use due care on August 20 at 9:41 p.m.
Melissa McClure, 67, was killed less than a block from her apartment on West 15th Street at the corner of Sixth Avenue when Wilmarth allegedly hit her with his pick-up truck on Saturday, August 10 around 9 p.m.
Police said that Wilmarth was driving north on Sixth Avenue and was attempting to make a left turn onto West 15th Street heading west. Two women, who Gothamist later identified as McClure and her younger sister, Dorry Chitwood, were attempting to cross the street with the white pedestrian walk signal.
As Wilmarth was making the turn, the front of his vehicle allegedly hit both pedestrians, knocking them to the ground. Police responded to a 911 call about the collision at 9:07 p.m. When officers arrived, they found two women in the roadway with head trauma.
EMS responded to the scene and transported the women to Bellevue Hospital where 59-year-old Chitwood was treated for a cut to the back of her head and was in stable condition. McClure was admitted to Bellevue Hospital in critical condition. Police said that McClure had suffered a severe skull fracture, causing hemorrhaging on her brain. She died from her injuries on Tuesday, August 13 at 4:18 p.m.
Wilmarth reportedly remained on the scene and was not injured as a result of the collision. The NYPD issued Wilmarth a desk appearance ticket to return to court on October 15. Attorney information for Wilmarth was not available.
The penalties connected with failure to use due care, which Wilmarth was charged with, increased after legislation in 2010, including the possibility of jail time. Former State Senator Daniel Squadron and Assemblymember Brian Kavanaugh, who represented the 74th District at the time, sponsored “Hayley and Diego’s Law,” named after Hayley Ng, 4, and Diego Martinez, 3, who were killed in Chinatown in 2009 when a delivery van left in reverse jumped the curb and hit the children.
For the first offense, the penalty on drivers whose failure to exercise due care that results in injury to pedestrians or bicyclists was increased to a fine of $750 or 15 days of jail time, participation in a driving training course, suspension or revocation of the driver’s license or registration, or any combination of these penalties. For the second offense, the penalty includes any of the above, plus a misdemeanor charge.