Second Victim in Crash that Killed Doorman Alfred Pocari Speaks Out Ahead of Driver’s Sentencing

Kira C. and Milda Pocari, Alfred’s daughter

By Joy Bergmann

Kira C. clearly remembers the moment when Jessenia Fajardo drove an SUV through a red light on West End Avenue at 98th Street, striking her and fatally injuring Alfred Pocari, 62, on the afternoon of July 19, 2019. 

“I felt burning pain as my pelvis cracked in four places. Then I must have turned so she had a chance to shatter my sacrum before I went flying 25 feet in the air,” recalls the fiercely private Kira, a healthcare practitioner in her 60s who’s lived on the Upper West Side for over 30 years.

Kira briefly blacked out while airborne, coming to after landing “like a cat.” Though bleeding from a head wound, she remained conscious and heard several voices.

One voice was Fajardo’s. “She was repeating ‘I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry’ over and over,” Kira said. Kira would later come to doubt the sincerity of this apology given Fajardo’s criminal history — including a hit-and-run just two months before this crash.

Kira then heard another voice. “It said, ‘I love you my darlings. I’ll be with you forever. If you need me, look up in the ylber.’” Ylber means rainbow in Albanian, Alfred’s native tongue but not one of the six languages Kira speaks.

“I’m a woman of science, not woo-woo. But I believe I saw Alfred’s spirit leaving his body and that he wanted me to carry this message to you,” says Kira, looking at Milda Pocari, Alfred’s 31-year-old daughter, who joined our recent conversation about the reverberating impact of the crash.

[In a WSR interview, Fajardo said she did not see Kira or Pocari before hitting them. She admitted to being unfocused while driving, but denied using her phone or texting before the crash. However, during her bail hearing, prosecutors testified that “Ms. Fajardo was on her phone as she was driving through the intersection.”]

Alfred Pocari 

Milda and her brother lost their father. Triplet toddlers lost their grandfather. Residents of 785 West End Avenue lost their beloved doorman. Extended family lost their connector; Alfred was the one who always made the catch-up calls. His widow Elvira had to take a second job to make ends meet, but nothing makes up for losing what Milda calls “their time.” “They worked so hard to raise us. My brother and I were now independent and they could focus on what they wanted to do together. Travel, go to the opera, dream about a relaxing retirement in Greece or Albania or New York,” says Milda. “I had just been talking to him about a trip to Spain. The next day he’s brain dead.”

Alfred and Elvira Pocari on their final trip together

It was while Alfred languished on life support that Milda sought out Kira. She knew there was another victim lying somewhere in the same hospital and felt compelled to connect. Frank, Kira’s husband and partner since 1984, welcomed Milda into her room. A sisterhood that began in sorrow now clearly fortifies the women, committed to seeing their shared tragedy transformed into positive change, starting with victims of vehicular violence being treated with the same concern — and rights — as other crime victims.

In December, Fajardo pleaded guilty to Manslaughter in the Second Degree and Assault in the Second and Third Degrees. She is expected to be sentenced on April 2nd. According to the Manhattan District Attorney’s office, the DA had been recommending the maximum sentence, five to 15 years; the judge had offered a promised sentence of two to six years.

“I’m not a vengeful woman,” says Kira, “but two to six is ridiculous for killing Alfred and maiming me. I’m serving a life sentence in an injured body.”

Kira wearing 20 pounds of leg stabilizers while undergoing treatment

Kira spent four months in hospitals and rehabs, undergoing five leg surgeries lasting six hours each. Her vigilance to be “my own best patient” helped her recognize and beat two major MRSA infections. She credits her crash survival to being a longtime athlete and yoga devotee. “After I was a human projectile, I landed with my weight evenly distributed. I knew my legs were broken, but my hands and brain were fine.”

The enduring toll, however, is far from it.

Her stamina is shot. She’s in constant pain, requiring medication she loathes. She needs a cane to manage a halting walk, and sitting for long is untenable.

Though both Kira and Alfred had health insurance to cover medical expenses, Fajardo’s uninsured status meant no settlement funds for lost wages, let alone pain and suffering.

“I used to joyfully work with patients for 8, 10 hours every day. Now I need help pulling a pie out of the oven,” says Kira. She used to earn eight times the amount she now receives in disability payments, and spends “tons of money” on private transportation because public transit is now “out of the question,” she says. Kira hopes to return to work someday. For now, her family is doing OK financially. “We are luckier than most. We’re able to live on Frank’s income.”

Rather than rue their losses, the women are focusing on preventing future crashes by tackling an expanding wish list.

“I want to rename that corner ‘Alfred Pocari Way’ to honor his memory and get people to be conscious of what happened here,” says Kira. “To be mindful, to say a prayer and remember to be careful toward each other.”

The duo has been collaborating with activist group Families for Safe Streets and Dana Lerner, mother of Cooper Stock, a 9-year-old boy killed by a taxi driver just one block south of the Pocari crash site. Milda is gathering the required signatures here for memorial street signage and will be submitting the application to Community Board 7.

Proposed future site of Alfred Pocari Way

Next, Kira wants a big “Slow Down: Speed Limit 25 mph” sign erected at 96th Street and West End. “People come racing off the [West Side] highway. It’s got to stop.”

They’d also like to see the law changed wherein if a driver’s auto liability insurance expires, the driver’s license would be automatically revoked until proof of insurance is provided.

Further, they want repeatedly negligent drivers to be stopped from driving before tragedy strikes. The City Council recently passed the Reckless Drivers Accountability Act  which forces drivers with more than 5 red light camera violations or more than 15 speed camera violations within 12 months to take a safe vehicle operation course or risk having their vehicle seized. Milda doesn’t think that goes far enough, believing repeat offenders should lose their driver’s license until they understand the possible consequences of these actions. “People need to treat their cars like the weapons they are. They’re just like a loaded gun,” she says.

Neither woman has an ideal sentence in mind for Fajardo, now 40. According to court documents, Fajardo gave this statement to NYPD at the crash scene, “I didn’t see them [Kira and Alfred]. I’m going through a lot, my apartment burned down last week in the Bronx. I’m living with my mom. My child’s father is in prison for vehicular manslaughter, he’s serving five years. I was on West End Avenue because of all the traffic on the highway.”

“I can’t put a number on how much time she should serve,” says Milda. “But for someone who hit a pedestrian in May, then hit two more people in July, killing one and severely injuring another, it needs to be enough time for her to reflect on what she did and learn a lesson. I don’t know if she has.”

Whatever happens, they do know they’ll have each other.

“My grandmother always taught me to look for the gold. To be an alchemist in your life, transform the bad stuff, find the gold, whatever it is,” says Kira. “Finding Milda, having her be part of my life, being my friend, is part of the gold. That’s a gift.”

NEWS | 37 comments | permalink
    1. JaneW says:

      Is there a Go-fund-me page for Kira? She needs help to replace at,least part of her lost wages!

      • LL says:

        Oh. That is a good point. I’d contribute.

        This is heartbreaking, but I am glad these women have each other

    2. lynn says:

      I’m trying to wrap my brain around Fajardo’s statement. An attorney ok’d that? There’s not one word that makes me feel sympathetic toward her.

      Best wishes to Kira and Milda! Please let us know if there’s a gofundme page and thank you for following up on this story.

    3. Kira says:

      Thanks for your sweet comment but the only reason I went public now is to help the Pocari family to rename the street. It is Mrs Pocari who had to take another job who should have a Go Fund me page,.I lost a great deal of income , true,but I am alive and walking albeit like Charlie Chaplin and have a wonderful,husband.
      Thanks though. Kira

      • Joy Bergmann says:

        Thanks, Kira. I followed up with Milda who encouraged people to support Families for Safe Streets if they’d like to make a donation.

    4. PedestrianJustice says:

      Kira and Milda, thank you for sharing your story with us and your strength with each other.

      It’s up to all of us to prevent future tragedies like this, starting by calling out anyone we see using a phone while driving. Just stop it. Whatever it is, it can wait until you get where you’re going.

    5. Paul says:

      Ms. Fajardo is a criminal. Her record included more than driving infractions and when she was arrested for the prior hit and run, she excused herself by saying “I left when he went to call the police because I had to get to work. I am on probation.”

      Per Ebroadseet.com, “Ms. Fajardo has had several brushes with the law in recent years. These include multiple occasions on which she was charged with driving without a license and without insurance, one in which she was charged with attempting to smuggle contraband to a prisoner at Rikers Island, and another charge of grand larceny arising from alleged identity theft.”

      Blatant disregard for the law warrants a maximum sentence.

    6. twenty says:

      I think 20 years in jail and termination of drivers license would be appropriate.

      • Dave says:

        Agree. It’s the same on 79. I live on 75/ riverside. Folks bust the lights constantly and drive at 70+mph. A sign at the neighborhood entrance reading “hello, welcome to our neighborhood please drive as is if your kids played here, please drive slowly and carefully” or something like that, any type of psychological attempt may be helpful. And law enforcement, that might help too. Cops are virtually non existent that we see. Saw two cars bust the light on 76 just yesterday right in front of a cop. Nothing…

    7. Sarah says:

      One of my great fears is killing someone while driving–one wrong split second decision and it’s over. But this woman has demonstrated repeatedly that she is indifferent to the safety of others and cannot be trusted to operate a vehicle safely. Everyone is stressed and distracted right now, but if you were getting sloppy with your driving, you would think the first time you hit somebody would be a serious wake-up call. Not for this woman. She needs a meaningful sentence and then she needs never to drive again.

      • good humor says:

        i agree. in a pedestrian-heavy city like NY it’s a legit fear. I drive very fast on turnpikes and parkways, but i drive very slow in the city. Literally never over 25mph. Not worth the risk

    8. World Peacenik says:

      “Kira wants a big ‘Slow Down: Speed Limit 25 mph’ sign erected at 96th Street and West End. ‘People come racing off the [West Side] highway. It’s got to stop.'”

      How is it that this sigh has not been posted yet? With all of the deaths SOMEONE AT THE DOT must have noticed.

      • Kevin says:

        After the traffic nightmare the DOT caused via its redesign of the 97th St & West End crossing, I assume they’d be too embarrassed to show their faces in this neighborhood any time soon.

      • Kira says:

        Again the. Only reason I went public now is to bring consciounesss to this fixable situation. Here’s hoping all our collective voices will make a much needed change.
        Kira

      • JerryV says:

        Dave wrote, “Agree. It’s the same on 79”. Also on 72nd.

    9. JJ says:

      Thank you for continuing to cover this story. It is important to a lot of people in our community. I live at 785 West End. Alfred was my doorman. I walked through the intersection shortly after the accident occured and I’ll never forget that day. It’s rare that I am waiting at the NE corner of West End and W 98th, I do wait now, and that I don’t think about him and what happened. I’m glad to hear about Kira’s petition and I would be honored to sign it. Like Cooper Stock, the least we could do is commemorate Alfred and hope that ever person that Google’s his name understands what a good and decent man he was and thinks for a moment about the consequences of our actions on others, their families, friends and our community.

      Jessenia’s recklessness and its impact on the Pocaris, Kira and her family are heartbreaking. What is even more appalling is her history of behavior which demonstrates a flagrant disregard for others. The City’s approach to driver accountability is and has been a joke – “5 red light violations and 15 speed violations within 12 months” and you take a safe vehicle operation course?!?! Where else in the civil or criminal code do we allow individuals to engage in such a pattern of reckless behavior with such minimal consequences, especially when the stakes for human life are so high?

      This is a city, not the suburbs. Drivers and pedestrians have coexisted here for more than a hundred years, however, the social contract is one of shared caution and courtesy and the acknowledgment that an automobile weighs 20 times more than a human. On April 2nd, I can only hope that Jessenia’s judge decides to make an example of her and to serve justice, which would be the maximum jail sentence. From that, I hope that others take a moment to appreciate the consequences of this type of behavior on their fellow man and their own lives. For Jessenia, I hope that she takes the time to reflect, get herself right and that she chooses to spend the rest of her life atoning for this senseless act.

      • Alan Greenberg says:

        I am a trial lawyer and live in the Sabrina on 97th between Broadway and West End Avenue. This tragedy also points up the need for the legislature to raise the minimum required bodily insurance coverage limits as well as increase the penalties for driving without insurance especially when criminally negligent as here.

    10. Marianne Serrani says:

      Yet, again I read another story that reminds me of when both my daughters were hit by a driver while crossing the street at 106th & Broadway on July 19th a few years ago. ( just noticed a date above in the article ).
      Both were badly injured. One had emergency surgery to relieve a frontal brain hematoma, nearly lost her eye and hearing on one side, broken bones through her body….. her sister looked like she went through a shredder with similar injuries . They both escaped death but months of recovery which I will not list as the list of visits to doctors and physiotherapists is just too long ,not to mention me pushing them to Riverside in a wheel chair to get some air or all the sleepless nights of worry hoping they recover.
      Both girls had just graduated from Barnard and were looking forward to a relaxing ,celebratory summer and just started a new job. July 19th was the night I received that dreadful call from a witness that gave me the news no mother wants to receive.

      The driver of the car who did not stop after striking my daughters drove away continuing on his drive home on 106th and was luckily stopped by the police who was patrolling in the area. I will get to the point.
      The driver in the end was not charged. He did not have proper insurance. He tried to flee the scene. He never formally apologized. I suggested he could at least do some kind of community service but nothing ever came to pass.

      To Kira: I hope that your road to recovery will be short and that you find strength every day to get better ,and like us take the bad and turn it to gold.

      My daughters fully recovered. We do not know what long term ,residual aches and pains will fare up but we are all grateful that they have full use of their legs, arms and all else.
      They had the support of family and friends and since then give lessons on how to stay safe while walking in the city.
      Man versus machine.
      I have repeatedly suggested ,cameras, reduced speed limits be placed in our area as I believe that some intersections and streets are used to avoid traffic on the WSH and drivers do not respect the fact that they must slow down while driving in our neighbourhood.

      I find that drivers these days are generally distracted by being on their phones, drinking and driving , etc, and have forgotten that driving is a privilege not a right especially when plow through pedestrians who do not wear the armour needed to protect them.

      Just think of all the people that didn’t survive.

      Stay safe and walk the streets with caution as you don’t know what goes through the driver’s head passing by.

      25mph in the stretch between 96th up to 106th on the major streets especially West Side is a good idea!

      • Dana Lerner says:

        Thank you all for your comments. Families For Safe Streets needs all of the help we can get. Not just money, but your time as well. Please go to our website FamiliesforSafeStreets.org

        I am Cooper Stocks mother. When my son was killed over 7 years ago the world lost an incredible person. The epidemic of Traffic Violence has gotten worse in the pandemic. Did you know there are 5 crashes an hour in NYC? The amount of people killed and injured
        is going up. Please reach out to FSS. We are here for you.

        • Julie says:

          I just want you to know that I often think of your son. Soon after Cooper was killed, my husband and I had a terrible experience with a cab driver. We got on his cab and noticed he was distracted and driving erratically; from the back seat I saw he was fidgeting with his phone. We told him to stop, wrote his plate number and name down, and called 311 straight away. An innocent child had just been killed, a family had lost their son. I later learned that the driver that pleaded guilty. Seven years on, we are still here talking about traffic violence killing and impacting so many lives but not much has changed. The families need justice, the memory of those lost need to be remembered, but we also need better laws. Wishing all the best to you, Mr Pocari’s family and to Milda.

      • Kira says:

        Many thanks for sharing your strory. I continue to work hard -3 hours a day actually. Emdr continues to help with the ptsd. I am grateful everyday for my life and for every step I can take, meanwhile we are preparing petitions. The online one should appear this weekend and if anyone wants one for their building please let Milda know. Or me.
        Thanks for all the support. Kira

    11. RonfromRiverside says:

      RIP. If I can suggest the light on 96th and West End, when trying to turn left, there is no signal for left turn only. It’s a game of chicken to try and make the turn, which may also have an impact on how people gun it up West End.

    12. Balebusta says:

      Jessenia needs a maximum sentence. She has a longstanding pattern of similar vehicular assaults, and other crimes, and her statement expresses zero responsibility or remorse. “I’m going through a lot” is not a get out of jail free card for murder. This woman demonstrates a pattern of Antisocial (sociopathic) behavior; which by the way can’t be resolved with therapy.

    13. Anne says:

      My deepest empathy. 21 years ago I lost my best friend of 30 years ( she was 47, I was 48). We talked every day, were each other’s bridesmaids, had all our kids together. She was a kind, loving mother of three. A guy in a pickup truck (very likely on his cell phone) mowed her down in a crosswalk in broad daylight . Even with the help of her DA sister, we were unable to obtain cell phone records because he was buds with the local police. Not a ticket, not a day in jail/ NOTHING, so at least there is SOME punishment in this case. You NEVER get over it. My life is good, but it is divided sharply into before and after her death. I think of her every day. Please everyone realize how many people you destroy when you drive carelessly 😢

    14. Janice says:

      Thanks for sharing your stories, Kira and Milda.

      Kira, I hope you recover completely. I can’t imagine what you’re going through. And Milda, to lose a dad like that? Just horrible.

      I believe the driver, especially because of her past hit and run, should be sentenced to a minimum of 20 years. The plea deal she got is a slap in the face to the victims. Either way, I hope she gets her license permanently revoked.

    15. UWSer says:

      The father of fajardo’s child is in prison for vehicular manslaughter?! My goodness that doesn’t give me sympathy. It makes me more irate! She should have been more cautious knowing the terrible consequences of reckless driving.

    16. UWSdr says:

      A story of resilience in the face of tragedy as our neighbors put their lives back together. Quite inspiring, and thank you to the WSR for following up on this senseless tragedy. The weak laws we have about driving and the fact that this driver had no insurance means that the victims get no compensation add to the pain. But clearly Kira and the Polcari family have the inner strength and support of loved ones to find a way through. Wishing them all peace and comfort.

    17. Lisa Slade says:

      I believe that a driver that maims one person and kills another should be go to prison for their lifetime. Clearly, the woman driving the car had a history of ignoring the law. She should not be free to walk our streets, let alone ever drive again. Lifetime Imprisonment is the only reasonable response to killing one Person and maiming another.

    18. Andrea End says:

      God bless you Kira. Marian passed this article link on to me. You were a saint to Jeff. I’ll never forget that. Sending love and hugs and positivity. Andy (Andrea Moss End)

      • Kira says:

        So lovely to hear from you. I think of Jeff often and hope to continue my pro Bono work with cancer patients as soon as I get my mojo back. Please get my contact info from Marian and be in touch. And sign the petition if you are moved to do so. Looking forward to catching up.
        Kira

    19. 98th says:

      Such a terrible accident. Praying for Kira’s continued recovery. This passage is incredible:

      Kira then heard another voice. “It said, ‘I love you my darlings. I’ll be with you forever. If you need me, look up in the ylber.’” Ylber means rainbow in Albanian, Alfred’s native tongue but not one of the six languages Kira speaks.

    20. Marci says:

      It’s positively sickening how time and time again, these drivers get off with a slap on the wrist. How is that even possible when people are killed because of the carelessness of the driver? There’s something terribly wrong with our system that this doesn’t change.

    21. PolitePost says:

      Thank you, Joy Bergmann, for shining much needed light on a very sad story. All of us take a chance every time we step outside our buildings and we all need to put our phones away and our music on low so we look out for ourselves. My condolences to all who’s lives have been so deeply effected.

    22. M. Alf says:

      Fajardo: 20 years minimum, and no license or car ever again. Legislate and enforce real-life consequences for uninsured and truly-inattentive drivers: jail time, and a few years’ suspension of license, with supervisory monitoring.

      A huge question is: why are there no speed bumps all along West End Ave. and Riverside between W.110th and W.72nd? That would help mitigate the self-distracting drivers’ tendency to tear through residential streets.