A young Indian American woman was killed instantly April 24 when a dump truck crashed into her as she was riding her bike through a difficult intersection near Rice University in Houston, Texas.
Sudipta Roy, 30, was leaving the Rice University campus after visiting her husband Ujjal Bhattacharjee, who is a post-doctoral fellow there. Roy was a certified nursing assistant at AccuraCare Nursing Home in Houston. She was studying to be a nurse.
The intersection at which Roy was struck is a particularly difficult one: a Rice professor was killed last year at the same location when a light rail train hit her. Roy was hit by the dump truck’s rear tire as it made a “right hook turn,” in which a vehicle overtakes a bicyclist or pedestrian.
Bhattacharjee filed a wrongful death lawsuit May 7 against the E. Cruz Lazo Trucking company. His attorneys held a press conference noting that Roy was legally using the crosswalk when she was killed. A judge has allowed a temporary restraining order stating that the truck must be preserved as evidence.
“She was where she had every legal right to be,” said Robert Kwok, Bhattacharjee’s attorney. Kwok said police jumped to conclusions and blamed Roy. He further stated that the victim was not legally required to dismount her bicycle and walk it through the intersection, as some people have suggested, according to local media reports.
“We have the ability to conduct what we believe to be a fair and impartial investigation,” said Kwok. “And in the end our goal in this case is to clear Sudipta’s name, that this tragedy was not her fault. She did not cause her own death.”
Kwok added that Roy was considered a vulnerable road user under Houston city ordinances and the dump truck driver “had a responsibility to ensure he was safely clear before making his right-hand turn.”
Kwok said the driver probably looked to his left, saw no oncoming cars, “and made his turn without even considering Ms. Roy was right next to him on his right side,” as reported by Houston Public Media.
Rice University cyclists and the organization Bike Houston held a protest, calling on the city of Houston to make fundamental changes at the intersection to ensure the safety of walkers and cyclists, including a simple sign that warns motorists to yield to bicyclists and pedestrians.
Roy and Bhattacharjee met in India and lived in Ames, Iowa, before recently moving to Houston so that he could pursue his post-doctoral fellowship.
Friends in Iowa remembered Roy as a prolific volunteer with an easy smile, who helped in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.
A gofundme page established to help with Roy’s funeral expenses, quickly raised more than $15,000 of a $5,000 goal.
“Sudipta was a dear friend to me when she lived in Ames. She taught me so much about her Indian culture, and we just clicked. I am so sad to hear of her passing. She was so young and had so much to offer,” wrote Kathy Ridnour on the fundraising page.
Roy’s body was flown to India for last rites.