July 4 Horror: Alleged Drunk Driver Kills 3, Injures 8, in LES Crash at Corlears Hook Park

Daniel Christopher Hyden, 44, with a long history of addiction behind him, sped his Ford F-150 truck up Water Street and, oblivious to stop signs, drove over the sidewalk and into an Independence Day party in Corlears Hook Park, according to police.

| 08 Jul 2024 | 11:05

While many Manhattanites were gazing upon the Hudson River, enjoying the Macy’s 4th of July fireworks show, shortly before 9 P.M., deep on the Lower East Side, a horrific truck crash cruelly shattered the day of celebration as an allegedly drunk driver killed three people and injured eight others.

The driver, Daniel Christopher Hyden, 44, plowed his gray Ford F-150 pickup truck into a barbecue party in Corlears Hook Park at a high rate of speed, according to police.

The fatalities were identified as local residents Lucille Pinckney, 59, and her son, Herman Pinckney, 38; and Ana Morel, 43, of East Harlem. A fourth person—a 30-year-old-woman was hospitalized in critical condition. Another victim—to whom Herman Pinckney was a virtual step-father—was an 11-year-old boy, Jakob Valazquez, a student at a Manhattan Charter School, For Curious Minds on Henry Street.

Hyden, who was pulled from his truck, beaten by parkgoers and held until police arrived, suffered head and facial lacerations. The FDNY, meanwhile, worked to tend the injured and free the four people trapped under the truck where it came to stop on a park pathway.

Hyden was arrested and taken to the 7th Precinct on Pitt Street. At present, he is charged with aggravated vehicular homicide; driving while intoxicated; driving without a valid license; and eight counts of assault in the second-degree.

To those who know Corlears Hook Park, the idea that such an “accident” could occur here was highly unlikely.

First, this section of Water Street is short, running one way north over slightly less than one quarter of a mile, from Montgomery St. to Jackson Street. Second, it’s not a stretch of road that any sentient driver would be speeding on.

The area is densely populated. On the southeast end of Water Street are the towers of the Gouverneur Gardens Housing Corporation. They continue north with the Lower East Side Service Center, in the former Gouvernuer Hospital Building, in between.

Most the west side of Water Street is occupied by NYCHA Vladeck Houses—named for the Minsk-born Yiddish newspaper editor and later Socialist City Council member, Baruch Charney Vladeck.

As for Water Street itself, it has two marked pedestrian crossings with two conditional (if a pedestrian is present) stop signs and is also a construction zone for an ongoing sewer project. The sidewalk on both sides of Water Street have cyclone fencing in place, while dozens of high visibility orange and white construction barrels line the roadway itself. Water Street has two regular full stop signs at Jackson Street.

Here, one can then turn left, past the Vladeck Houses up to Madison Street, or right, past the Sacred Heart Convent, down to South Street.

Horrifically, Daniel Hyden did neither and instead drove head on, over the Jackson Street sidewalk, and into the side of Corlears Hook Park, were many barbecuing revelers and others had gathered.

As it happened, intoxication almost certainly played multiple parts in the tragedy. “Officers who arrived on the scene did smell some alcohol,” said NYPD Chief of Department Jeffrey Maddrey. “We do not feel this is a terrorism-related event. We do believe alcohol played a played in role in this.”

Besides Hyden’s condition after the crash, it’s since been reported that, earlier this same evening, he’d been kicked off a party boat docked at nearby Pier 36 on the East River. What Hyden did between leaving the party boat and getting into his truck is presently unknown.

Whatever his July 4 timeline proves to be, Hyden was no stranger to peril. Not only does he have past drunk driving convictions in New Jersey, in 2006 and 2011, and in Wisconsin in 2021, Hyden has made a career out of his failings by becoming a substance abuse counselor, mentoring other addicts for a number of city hospitals and social service groups.

Hyden made no secret of his problems either. As DC Hyden, he was the author of the 2020 book, The Sober Addict: A Guide on How Be Functional with the Dysfunctional Disease of Addict. Photos of the author, bright eyed and well-groomed, stand in sharp contrast to the bleary-eyed, face battered and bloodied person arrested Thursday night.

Since that time, The Sober Addict’s Amazon page has received a wave of negative reviews.

On LinkedIn, Hyden states that he’s a “Program Director for three residential treatment programs, Author, Public Speaker and Addiction Clinician. My jobs are my passions and each allows me to advocate on the behalf of all those impacted by the disease of addiction. My mission is to use my lifelong experience with addiction to teach addicts how to save themselves and achieve long term recovery.”

This past April, Hyden published a second book titled Road to Recovery: Motivational Quotes, an “Adult Coloring Book of Quotes from The Sober Addict.”

Visiting Corlears Hook Park on Friday morning, the scene was somber. Numerous television crews and other press were present, as were grieving friends and family of the victims.

With the crash site itself secured by cops, a police photographer took pictures of Hyden’s truck and the scattered debris all around it. Later, FDNY arrived, to cut away some fencing to ease the truck’s removal.

During this process, Straus News noticed two odd things. First, was the terribly ironic presence of a red grill in the flatbed of Hyden’s truck. Second, was the truck’s apparent lack of any license plates. though it seemed possible that vehicle’s broken tailgate was blocking the rear plate.

When the death vehicle was hoisted onto an NYPD Fleet Services flatbed truck, however, it was evident that the F-150 had no legitimate rear license plate. Instead, inside a Carvana “We’ll Drive You Happy” license plate frame, was a temporary plate, #5415R02, issued by the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT), with an expiration date of August 6, 2023.

While it’s been reported that Hyden’s driver’s license has been suspended multiple times, the matter of the truck’s registration remains unknown.

Hyden, represented by Legal Aid Society attorney Tim Pruitt, was arraigned in Manhattan Criminal Court on Saturday July 7, and is presently being held without bail at the Department of Corrections West Facility in East Elmhurst, Queens.

That same evening, with a makeshift shrine having been erected on the Corlears Hook Park pathway where Hyden’s truck finally came to a stop, a memorial was held for the victims of the deadly crash.

Hyden is due back in Manhattan Criminal Court on July 10 and is expected to face further charges.