U-Haul rampage victim died striving for ‘American dream’

Feb 16, 2023, 6:52 PM | Updated: Feb 17, 2023, 10:03 am

FILE —-Erafin Yaz, 25, looks from his roof at the caution tape covering the corner of Bay Ridge A...

FILE —-Erafin Yaz, 25, looks from his roof at the caution tape covering the corner of Bay Ridge Avenue and 5th Avenue where pedestrians were struck Monday, Feb. 13, 2023, in the Brooklyn borough of New York. Delivery worker YiJie Ye was struck and killed by a U-Haul truck during a miles-long rampage, that barreled into bicyclists, moped riders, a police car and one pedestrian. (AP Photo/Brittainy Newman)

(AP Photo/Brittainy Newman)

NEW YORK (AP) — Three years ago, YiJie Ye was on a routine delivery run in Brooklyn on his motorized scooter when he was in a crash with another vehicle. The collision left the father of three injured and unable to work, but soon he was back on the road supporting his children.

On Monday, he was hit again, though this time it was no accident. Ye was one of nine people struck by a U-Haul driven by a man who authorities said went on a nearly hourlong rampage, barreling into bicyclists, moped riders, a police car and one pedestrian before he was captured.

Eight people survived the attack. Ye did not.

By his relatives’ account, Ye was a devoted single father who worked day and night to support his twin sons and a daughter, all teenagers. He died doing a dangerous job, one of the legions of takeout food workers zipping 24-hours a day through New York City’s sometimes inhospitable streets.

“He’s a first generation immigrant who was pursuing the American Dream for his kids,” said Mike Chen, whose wife, Jessy, is Ye’s cousin.

Ye arrived from China 18 years ago and made a living scooting from place to place to deliver food. When business was slow, he’d collect recyclables from city streets to supplement his income, said Chen, who owns the Brooklyn apartment building where Ye lived with his children, 2 miles (3 kilometers) from where he was run down.

It was just weeks ago when Ye and his relatives had gathered for a meal to celebrate the Lunar New Year.

“He had a lot of big plans for his kids, like going to college and be able to support themselves and make great contributions to society. But right now, everything just shattered,” said Chen, whose wife set up a gofundme fundraiser to help Ye’s family.

Mayor Eric Adams called the incident a “horrific story.”

“A father was raising his children, young children, and he was the one that died in this incident,” the mayor said earlier this week.

Authorities arrested Weng Sor, 62, and charged him with murder in Ye’s death.

Police said Sor was suffering from an apparent mental health crisis when he mowed down bicyclists, moped riders and at least one pedestrian over 48 minutes. After his arrest, Sor told police he believed it was “judgment day” and that he had driven the truck at “the people that disturbed him the most,” a prosecutor said during Sor’s initial court appearance.

That many of the U-Haul’s victims were on bikes or scooters was not lost on those who make a living delivering food and groceries.

Dachuan Nie, the president of the International Alliance of Delivery Workers, expressed sympathy for Ye’s family.

Everyday, he said, delivery workers face danger from cars, trucks and buses.

“They will face accidents everyday, every time they are working,” Nie said.

Ye was injured on Feb. 18, 2020, in a collision with a car less than 2 miles (3 kilometers) from home, according to a police report. He sued the motorist, claiming the driver ran a red light. The case was still pending when he was killed Monday. His attorney did not respond to requests for an interview.

After he was struck by the U-Haul, Ye wasn’t able to speak and authorities had trouble tracking his next of kin.

“I was reading the news about the U-Haul rampage in the morning and I never associated anything with my cousin until I received a phone call from a police officer,” Chen said.

He was told that Ye had been critically injured. By the time relatives and Ye’s children arrived at the hospital, he was dead.

“We missed the chance to have a last word,” Chen said.


Associated Press researcher Rhonda Shafner contributed to this report.

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