Dozens of strangers converged from all directions to lift a 5-tonne bus off the body of a pregnant woman — a superhuman effort that managed to save the life of her child but was too late for her.
Seven months pregnant, Donnette Sanz was crossing one of the busiest intersections in the Bronx on her lunch break on Thursday when she was struck by a van whose brakes failed.
The impact sent the 33-year-old NYPD traffic agent flying into the path of a yellow school bus and pinned her underneath.
About 30 people helped lift the bus, and Sanz was rushed to a hospital, where doctors delivered her boy by Caesarean section. The 3-pound, 6-ounce infant, named Sean Michael, was in critical condition om Friday but showing signs of improvement.
“This is such an unbelievable tragedy that took place; it took away one of our own,” said James Huntley, president of the union that represents traffic agents. “But I’m so thankful to the city of New York and to the citizens who came to her aid, like real heroes out of a comic book.”
The 72-year-old van driver, Walter Walker, pleaded not guilty on Friday to criminally negligent homicide and aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle. He was being held on $100,000 bail, and his attorney didn’t immediately return a phone call.
Police said in a court filing that the brakes on Walker’s van had deteriorated so badly that the vehicle was unsafe to drive. Walker told investigators he had some repairs done six months ago but knew there were still problems.
Bystanders, including Gary Burgess, came in waves to lift the mini school bus from Sanz’s body. “It was the human thing to do,” said Burgess, 50. “I had grease on my hands, but I did this from my heart.” There were no children on the bus at the time.
Sanz survived the delivery in an emergency operating room at St. Barnabas Hospital but died about an hour later, spokesman Fred Winters said. The baby was taken to the neonatal intensive-care unit and placed on a ventilator.