EXCLUSIVE: 71-year-old driver accused of killing 4-year-old girl in SF crash avoids jail time

BySuzanne Phan KGO logo
Thursday, April 18, 2024
EXCLUSIVE: Driver accused of killing girl in SF crash avoids jail time
There's criticism over a plea deal for a driver accused of hitting and killing a 4-year-old girl in a stroller in San Francisco last August.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- There's criticism over a plea deal for a driver accused of hitting and killing a 4-year-old girl in a stroller in San Francisco last August.

The accident near Oracle Park also seriously injured her father.

On Wednesday, ABC7 News was the only media outlet at the hearing.

Karen Cartagena, 71, won't have to go to jail after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter charge.

"Ms. Cartagena is profoundly and utterly devastated by what happened," said Attorney Greg Mendez who represents Karen Cartagena. Cartagena drove into a family at 4th and King Streets last August killing a 4-year -old girl in a stroller.

Police say it was a tragic accident. Mendez explains what led up to the collision.

"At the time of the incident, there was circumstantial evidence that suggested that Ms. Cartagena should continue driving, take the right turn based on indications from a traffic signal operator...At least one person behind her was honking her horn indicating that she was holding up traffic and that she should continue driving," said Mendez.

RELATED: 4-year-old girl run over, killed by car while visiting San Francisco from out of town

Police are investigating a fatal pedestrian crash involving a 4-year-old and their parents near Oracle Park in San Francisco.

Mendez says Cartenga read an emotional letter of apology in court that brought the judge and others to tears.

"She is beyond remorseful. Her life is been forever changed," said Mendez.

The victim's family-who are now back in Korea- also had heartfelt written letters read by a translator.

As part of the plea deal, Cartagena will face:

RELATED: 71-year-old driver arrested in SF crash that killed 4-year-old girl in stroller: Police

Two years of court probation, 400 hours of community service, and she'll need to complete a driver's education course.

Luke Bornheimer, a sustainable transportation advocate, doesn't agree with the sentence.

"I think there's a dangerous precedent set when you give very lenient sentencings for people killing other people with their cars. We know that cars are multi-ton machines that can easily kill or maim a person in seconds," said Bornheimer.

Right after the collision, SFMTA reduced the two right turn lanes from 4th onto King Street to a single lane, saying it would slow traffic and reduce the amount of cars going through the crosswalk.

RELATED: Changes coming to San Francisco intersection where 4-year-old girl was hit, killed

Bornheimer says those changes are not enough.

"Closing one of the turn lanes seems inadequate," said Bornheimer. "King Street is dangerously designed like many streets in our city. It has multiple lanes in one direction, many people going faster than 30-40 mph."

"The city needs to redesign streets like King Streets and many other streets so there are less driving lanes, use that space to create more space for people, and more protected bike lanes."

RELATED: Advocates rally for pedestrian safety improvements after 4-year-old hit, killed by car in SF

Many at the rally on Tuesday want San Francisco to redesign hundreds of especially dangerous intersections to make them more pedestrian friendly.

San Francisco adopted Vision Zero 10 years ago with the goal of zero traffic deaths.

Safety advocates say the city is still far from reaching that goal.

MORE: Vision Zero: San Francisco recommits efforts to eliminate traffic deaths a decade later

But SFMTA says it has reduced the number of fatal collisions and severe traffic-related injuries.

It has added a number of protected bike lanes and the city is adding more speeding cameras.

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