9-year-old dies in Jamaica at Liberty Avenue crossing

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The Jamaica family that had been planning a 10th birthday party for Stefani Brijlall was still finalizing arrangements for the girl's funeral Tuesday after she was killed last week when a passenger van struck her as she crossed Liberty Avenue holding her mother's hand, police said.

Stefani, 9, and her mother Nalin Brijlall, 37, were walking from their South Road home to PS 50 at Liberty Avenue and Allendale Street just before 8 a.m. last Thursday because Stefani, a fourth-grader, wanted to get to school early to eat breakfast with her friends.

But the mother and daughter were hit by a van turning left onto Liberty Avenue, killing Stefani and leaving Nalin Brijlallin with head trauma and a leg injury, police said.

The death saddened community members, who said Liberty Avenue, a main thoroughfare in Jamaica, can be dangerous to cross because cars often speed through the area.

Stefani, who had been eagerly awaiting her 10th birthday Sunday, was taken to Mary Immaculate Hospital in Jamaica, where she died in her mother's arms, police said. Funeral plans were still being made Tuesday, a family member said.

Nalin Brijlall was also treated at the hospital, where she was in stable condition, a hospital official said. She was released Friday, the spokeswoman said.

"My heart is sad," said a crossing guard who was stationed on the other side of school when the accident took place.

The van, part of the Consolidated Bus Transit Inc. fleet based in Brooklyn, was carrying three mentally disabled adults and driven by Antonio Oriol, 64, police said. Oriol was traveling south on Allendale Street at 7:50 a.m. when he turned onto Liberty Avenue, police said. Stefani and her mother had just entered the second lane of the four-lane road when they were struck, police said.

No summonses were issued and no arrests were made at the scene, police said, but the investigation was continuing. Oriol was not charged with any criminal action, police said.

Nalin Brijlall, a single mother from Guyana, walked Stefani to school every day from their home at 145-04 South Road in Jamaica, before heading to her job in a knitting factory in Long Island City, family members said. Later in the day, she would head to a second job as a sales clerk in the Bronx.

Community residents said the industrial stretch of Liberty Avenue behind PS 50 is often used as a speedway by cars coming off or heading for the Van Wyck Expressway.

"This corner's unbelievable," said a custodian at the school. "They speed up and down this road."

Two other girls were also killed last year on Liberty Avenue, near the corner of Pinegrove Street, just two blocks from where Stefani was hit, an area resident said.

The school has a crossing guard posted at the corner of Liberty Avenue and Liverpool Street, a block east of the intersection where Stefani was struck, but children and parents crossing at Allendale Street like the Brijlalls are left to their own care.

"It's really bad crossing the street here," said Levi Jackson, 65, who walks his daughter to school at PS 50. "There's no crossing guard there. There are no signs saying to slow down for the school area. They just fly down here."

School District 28 and city Department of Education officials declined to comment on the crossing guard assignments, but some were hoping Stefani's death would bring increased safety to Liberty Avenue.

"The crossing guard always complained to put one here, but they haven't," the custodian said of the Allendale Street intersection. "Sometimes it takes a death to change a law."

Reach reporter Courtney Dentch by e-mail at, or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 138.

Posted 7:02 pm, October 10, 2011
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