Deceased NYPD traffic cop's baby dies

August 23, 2008 9:34:47 AM PDT
A premature boy called a miracle baby for surviving a traffic accident that killed his pregnant mother died Friday, a week after bystanders banded together to lift a school bus off her. Sean Michael Justin Sanz had been in intensive care since he was delivered by Caesarean section shortly after a runaway van hit his mother on Aug. 14. He weighed 3 pounds, 6 ounces at birth.

His mother, traffic agent Donnette Sanz, survived the delivery but died about an hour later in an emergency operating room. She was seven months pregnant.

The van hit Sanz when she was crossing a Bronx street on her lunch break. The impact sent her flying into the path of a yellow school bus; she was pinned underneath. About 30 bystanders rushed to the scene and hoisted the 5-ton bus from her body in a rescue that made the front pages of the city's tabloid newspapers.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg offered his condolences to the child's father, Rafael Sanz.

"From the moment last Thursday when Donnette was struck down, scores of New Yorkers pulled together as one to try to save her and her still-unborn child," he said. "The bystanders who heroically rescued Donnette from under a school bus in the Bronx didn't just lift five tons of glass and steel; they also lifted the spirits of our entire city."

Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said the NYPD was deeply saddened by the child's death.

Sanz had been a civilian member of the NYPD for two years.

Traffic agents direct vehicles, write parking tickets and operate tow trucks. They do not carry weapons.

The 72-year-old van driver, Walter Walker, has pleaded not guilty to criminally negligent homicide and aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle. A spokesman for the Bronx district attorney said Friday that prosecutors would wait for the medical examiner to determine the infant's cause of death before deciding whether Walker would face additional charges.

Walker has a long history of driving offenses and arrests dating to the 1980s; police have said he had his license suspended 20 times. In a court filing, police said the brakes on Walker's van had deteriorated so badly it was unsafe to drive.

In an interview with the Daily News published hours before the infant's death, Rafael Sanz spoke about how his deep love for his son was mingled with grief over his wife's death. He said she had donated a kidney to him shortly before their wedding four years ago.

"She never got to see our baby, but she was in love with him," he said.

James Huntley, president of the union representing traffic agents, said he, too, was heartbroken.

"We regret the passing of little Sean Michael, who was delivered by a miracle and by the help of New Yorkers," he said.

"We hoped the baby's life would have been spared. Now the father is left with just memories of his wife and child."

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