The 57-year-old man who died after an out-of-control SUV driven by an allegedly drunk driver slammed into him Wednesday afternoon as he sat on a park bench on Staten Island served in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War and was on his way home from picking up a benefits check when he was hit, the man's father told NBC 4 New York.
David Craig, who served six years in the Navy during the Vietnam Era but was never deployed to combat, paused to sit on the bench in Tompkinsville Park near Bay Street at Victory Boulevard when the SUV came barreling toward him shortly before 2:30 p.m. The 25-year-old driver apparently clipped another car, lost control of the vehicle, jumped a curb and hit Craig, authorities said.
Craig was taken to Richmond University Hospital, where he died of his injuries.
"That's the first one of my children to die," said father Edward Craig, who's now mourning the loss of his middle child.
"He was a carefree type of person, independent," he said as he shared photos of his son with NBC 4 New York Thursday.
Bystanders Ron Gibson and John Childs were inside the park at the time of the crash, and they rushed to help the driver before realizing the SUV had landed on top of someone on the bench.
"We looked down, see a pair of legs, and there was a gentleman laying there," Childs said.
Gibson said they pulled Craig out headfirst and laid him on the ground, but it was clear the victim was very critically injured.
The SUV's driver, Oriamor Benson of Staten Island, was arrested by police on a DWAI charge. Her arraignment was deferred pending toxicology results, a spokesman for the Richman County district attorney's office said Thursday. No one answered the door at her home Thursday, and no one picked up the phone when NBC 4 New York called.
Attorney information for Benson wasn't immediately available.
Gibson and Childs said the woman didn't appear seriously hurt when they pulled her from the vehicle.
"All she kept saying was, 'Thank you, thank you, thank you,'" said Childs.
The driver of the car clipped by Benson was not hurt. He was walking around as he talked to investigators.
The horrific accident has shaken the two men who tried to help.
"It's very scary. You could be waiting for a bus one minute, the next you'll be dead," said Childs.