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Young Father Killed; Hit-and-Run Driver Charged

April 21, 2011


Thomas Riley, a young father who lived in Mt. Hope was struck and killed last month by a drunk driver as he attempted to hail a cab along East Fordham Road, police and witnesses said. He was 23 years old.

Riley’s tragic death happened just a month after an 11-year-old was killed crossing the Grand Concourse, raising alarm among local residents about pedestrian safety.

Police say Riley, who lived on the Grand Concourse, was struck by a vehicle traveling at a high speed, at the intersection of East Fordham Road and Bathgate Avenue, just after 4 a.m., on Sunday, March 20. The young man who dreamed of opening up his own barber shop died a short time later at St. Barnabas Hospital.

Riley’s grandmother, Adeline Riley, flew in for the March 25 funeral at Ortiz Funeral Home.

“I feel like I lost a son more than a grandson,” she said in a telephone interview days after the funeral. “I raised him from when he was a year old and when he got older, he moved in with his mother. I brought him up in the church. He did not smoke or drink. He was saving up to buy a barbershop.”

David Williams, Riley’s uncle and a member of Community Board 5, said everyone called his nephew “T.J.” and that he would be sorely missed.

“We lost someone who could have made a difference in the community,” said Williams, the co-chair of Board 5’s youth committee. Williams said he is going to address pedestrian safety issues with the help of the board and reach out to elected officials to see if there’s something that can be done about what is becoming an increasing problem in the area.

Witnesses at the scene provided police a detailed description of the black, 1998 Chrysler Town and Country minivan with significant front-end and windshield damage. Police quickly stopped the vehicle on Third Avenue, near the Cross Bronx Expressway.  

Police later announced the arrest of Seth Johnson, 35, of Manhattan, who was charged with vehicular manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide, driving while intoxicated and leaving the scene of an accident.

Johnson reportedly registered a .105 on a sobriety test and has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

The vehicle Johnson was riding in was promoting a “Mambo Sundays” event at the, “Sofa Lounge,” formerly, “The X-Bar,” on Cedar Avenue, near Fordham Road and the Major Deegan.

One of the event’s co-promoters, Walter Tfon said, “It’s hard to give your opinion when the life of people changes in seconds, but [Johnson] always did his job and I have never seen him do anything wrong.”

Tfon said Johnson was not at the club and did not know where he had been drinking the night before the crash.
Riley is survived by his 4-year-old son.


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