Body dragged nearly 20 miles on NYC highways
NEW YORK (AP) -- A van traveled nearly an hour over busy New York City roads before its driver discovered the horrific cargo it had dragged nearly 20 miles: the partially scraped-away body of a man who was plowed over by an SUV just before he got...
NEW YORK (AP) -- A van traveled nearly an hour over busy New York City roads before its driver discovered the horrific cargo it had dragged nearly 20 miles: the partially scraped-away body of a man who was plowed over by an SUV just before he got caught under the van.
Police said that the gruesome episode was accidental and that they have no plans to charge the drivers at this time.
But that did not diminish the shock of seeing a dead man hooked under a van that had just traversed some of the busiest roads in New York City. Police said the driver, Manuel Lituma Sanchez, had no idea he hit the victim until the end of his trip, when a bystander told him something was dragging under his van.
Investigators were working to identify the body, which was largely intact but horribly battered. The man's heels were shorn off. His clothes and several layers of skin on his legs and buttocks were worn off. The back of his head was worn through to the scalp.
A business card, Western Union receipt and a broken iPhone were found in the man's pockets, said NYPD spokesman Paul Browne.
He was first hit around 6:15 a.m. in the Corona section of Queens by the driver of a black Ford Expedition, Gustavo Acosta, who immediately called 911. When police arrived, the victim was gone.
Sanchez, who was about two vehicles behind, said he had noticed cars swerving, but didn't see the initial accident and assumed the drivers were simply avoiding a pothole.
He drove over the victim, who was facing up, and the man's chest was hooked by a steel plate under the van known as the skid plate, used to protect the transmission and undercarriage. It's not clear if the victim was alive at that point.
"The van comes and rides right over the body and as it goes by there's no body there," Browne said. "The body was basically fish-hooked by the plate."
Sanchez drove on the Grand Central Parkway, the Van Wyck Expressway and the Belt Parkway, winding from Queens to Brooklyn and ending up in Brighton Beach, where he works as a delivery man, Browne said. On the residential streets at a slower speed, he suspected something was wrong with his engine, and he stopped, opened the hood and checked the oil. But he did not look under the car.
He got back in and drove a few more blocks before a pedestrian flagged him to say something was dragging under his 1998 Chevy van. Sanchez got out of his car again and looked underneath to discover the body, and called 911 from his cell phone.
Police jacked up the vehicle and pulled the body from under the van. The battered corpse, found face up with the shirt and pants shredded, was covered with a white sheet as officers investigated and talked to the shellshocked, exhausted driver in a police car. The victim's bruised and bloody legs could be seen protruding from the sheet in front of the van.
An autopsy was planned for Thursday. Both drivers have clean records, police said.
Police retraced the van's route and recovered a blue jacket believed to have belonged to the victim, who was described as Hispanic, in his 20s or 30s and between 5 feet 2 and 5 feet 4 inches tall.
Police had initially believed it was a 17-mile journey, but did a closer examination of the route realized it was 19.8 miles instead.