2009-01-09 / Front Page

Ricatto Campaign Bus Kills Kid

Anine-year-old Ozone Park boy was struck and killed on Tuesday afternoon by a Mike Ricatto for City Council campaign bus operated by a man with a suspended license, police say.

Ricatto's campaign bus sits at the intersection of Cross Bay Boulevard and Liberty Avenue on Tuesday evening, after its driver struck and killed a nine-year-old boy returning home from school. (Inset) Ibrihim Ahmed in a recent family photo. Ricatto's campaign bus sits at the intersection of Cross Bay Boulevard and Liberty Avenue on Tuesday evening, after its driver struck and killed a nine-year-old boy returning home from school. (Inset) Ibrihim Ahmed in a recent family photo. Ricatto, a conservative businessman, is running for the City Council seat recently vacated by Joseph P. Addabbo Jr. in a district that includes much of the west end of Rockaway and Broad Channel.

In a prepared statement, Ricatto, who was not in the bus at the time of the accident, announced that he was suspending all campaign activities until further notice "out of reverence for family loss that comes before any politics."

Police say that PS 63 fourth-grader Ahmed Ibrihim was darting across a dangerous intersection at Cross Bay Boulevard and Liberty Avenue in Ozone Park when he was struck by the campaign bus, operated by Alexander Aponte, 22, of East 61 Street in Manhattan.

The accident, which happened at 3:37 p.m. on January 6, quickly tied up traffic on the busy thoroughfare for hours as police investigated the death of the young boy.

Eyewitnesses told reporters at the scene that the young boy was crossing the street with the light, which was about to change, but that Aponte, who was driving northbound on the multilane road, sped up at the intersection in order to beat the light.

Police arrested Aponte, who remained at the scene of the accident, and charged him with one count of aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle and with failure to yield the right of way.

Aponte was arraigned in Queens Criminal Court on January 7, a spokesperson for Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said. His bail was set at $5,000. His next court date was set for January 14.

Ricatto expressed his sadness in a statement released Tuesday night.

"My thoughts and my prayers go out to the family of the child whose life was taken in this tragic accident. I have children of my own and can't imagine the pain of losing a child in an accident such as the one that occurred today."

Ricatto is a prominent business presence in Queens, known for Ricatto Enterprises, which operates transmission and engine dealerships, and for the Whiskey Bar in Flushing.

Political insiders say that he recently moved from Forest Hills to Ozone Park in order to run in the February 24 election to fill the seat left vacant by Addabbo, who was recently sworn in as a State Senator.

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