NEW YORK >> New York City’s mayor said a driver with a history of seizures who fatally struck two children, including the daughter of an acclaimed Broadway actress, never should have been behind the wheel.
Authorities say the driver, Dorothy Bruns, 44, apparently had a seizure Monday while stopped at a red light in Brooklyn.
Her car drove forward and struck actress Ruthie Ann Miles and another mother, Lauren Lew, as they crossed the street with their children.
Lew’s 1-year-old son, Joshua, and Miles’ 5-year-old daughter, Abigail, were killed. The mothers were injured but survived.
Miles, who is pregnant, was in stable condition at the hospital, her agent said Wednesday.
“This should never have happened,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a news conference.
Bruns had a valid driver’s license, but was stripped of it after the collision.
Police and Brooklyn prosecutors were looking at Bruns’ medical records, bloodwork and driving record, but unless a doctor advised her not to drive, she may not face charges, they said.
A similar incident occurred in Hawaii in 1997 when Honolulu attorney Jerry Wilson hit 11-year-old Katie McKenzie while she walked along a downtown sidewalk. The child suffered critical injuries, including broken legs and shattered bones, as well as damage to her left kidney and spleen and was in a coma for nearly a month before eventually recovering. The girl’s family and Wilson claimed that Kaiser Permanente Medical Group Inc. and one of its doctors were negligent in prescribing a drug that resulted in his fainting while driving.
The Hawaii Supreme Court ruled in 2002 that doctors who fail to warn patients about possible side effects of prescription drugs can be held responsible if a driver with an adverse reaction causes injury.
Hawaii residents with epilepsy, heart conditions or low blood sugar that can cause abrupt seizures or loss of consciousness must get approval from a doctor and a six-member medical advisory board under the state Department of Transportation, which has the final say on whether a driver’s license is issued.
The general rule in Hawaii is that drivers must be seizure-free for six months to get a license. The same timeframe is used for other medical conditions, said board member Alan Stein, an epilepsy specialist at The Queen’s Medical Center.
The medical advisory board approves most of roughly 200 cases per year that it reviews because a physician has already cleared those cases, Stein said. Drivers are flagged based on their answers to medical questions in the driver’s license application.
“If the person’s physician has said they think they’re OK to drive, it’s fairly unusual for us to deny it. Maybe a couple times a year we will say no even though a patient’s doctor had said yes,” he said. “There are other times we will put restrictions on it and say you can drive but you have to have your car modified. We might say instead of getting a license for eight years you might get it for two or four years, so we can monitor and see how you’re doing. Typically, patients’ doctors are pretty good about making decisions on whether they appear to be safe to drive.”
In Hawaii, physicians are not required to inform the Department of Motor Vehicles of patients who have medical conditions that could affect safe driving.
New York City records show the vehicle Bruns was driving had been cited four times in the past two years for running red lights and another four times for speeding through school zones. It is not clear from the citations who was driving the car at the time.
“She should never have been allowed to have been driving a car after what we know of these other violations,” said de Blasio, who has a home a short walk from where the accident happened. “I share the frustration of many in my community. I wish she was under arrest right now. I certainly believe measures need to be taken to ensure she will not drive a car anymore.”
Police said Bruns was hospitalized.
Miles, who goes by Blumenstein off stage, won a featured actress Tony in 2015 for her role as Lady Thiang in a revival of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “The King and I.”
Other credits include “Sunday in the Park with George” opposite Jake Gyllenhaal and playing Imelda Marcos in David Byrne’s off-Broadway musical “Here Lies Love.” She had a recurring role on the FX series “The Americans.”
De Blasio said he would announce sometime next week measures to help guard against similar deaths in the future.
“People who get behind the wheel of a car need to understand that they have a weapon in their hands,” he said.
Star-Advertiser reporter Kristen Consillio contributed to this report.