A crash that killed a 49-year old city bus driver on the West Side last week is hitting a Lower East Side family very hard. You may have seen the stories; William Pena was killed early last Wednesday morning when a young man in a stolen truck careened into his bus on 14th Street near 7th Avenue. Pena, who was raised on Stanton Street and still had strong ties in the neighborhood, leaves behind a 17-year old daughter and a heartbroken family.
Yesterday, we sat down with two of Pena’s younger brothers, Alex and Eriberto, at the offices of ALBOR, the Association of Latino Business Owners and Residents. They were just lining up details for the memorials taking place this week. A viewing is scheduled tomorrow from 2-7 p.m. at the Tillman Chapel (United Nations), 777 United Nations Plaza. Plans for Thursday’s mass and burial are still being finalized. The Transit Workers Union is planning a procession of buses from every depot to honor Pena, who worked for the MTA for 18 years.
Pena’s mother still lives in the family home at 160 Stanton St., near Suffolk Street, and he was staying with her there last week. Most of the time, he lived with his daughter, Gabriela, and longtime partner Nancy Rodriguez in Hillside, New Jersey.
Alex and Eriberto said William dreamed of retiring after Gabriela went away to college, and even sent a text message mentioning that dream just a day before the crash. The family had picked out a piece of land in the Dominican Republic. Alex lives next door to William in Hillside; they loved motorcycles, and the pair frequently went riding together. Alex and Eriberto called their brother a family man, who was on the job at 3:30 every morning and was always dedicated to providing for his daughter, who’s a senior in high school. Their father died last year, and Alex lost a young son to illness around the same time. “If it had been a heart attack or something like that,” Alex said, “it would have been one thing but it’s so much harder because someone else took his life.”
After the accident, police arrested a Georgia man, 22-year-old Dominic Whilby, a nephew of model Tyson Beckford. He was charged with aggravated vehicular homicide, manslaughter, vehicular manslaughter, assault, operating a vehicle while intoxicated and aggravated driving while intoxicated. Prosecutors said Whilby’s blood alcohol level was more than twice the legal limit.
The Pena family is determined to make sure justice is done. They’ve set up a web site, williampena.org, It’s intended to help raise money to send Gabriela to college but also to keep the criminal case in the public eye. A section of the site carries this headline: “Help us keep (Dominic Whilby) behind bars.” The defendant is scheduled in court today.
Alex called his brother a hero, who made sure the crash did not injure or kill more people. “He was a great guy, never in trouble,” Alex said. “What hurts is that this guy has broken many dreams. That was my riding buddy.”
Click here if you would like to donate to the Pena family fund. They’ve already raised more than $4,000. Here’s the family’s personal appeal:
Family and friends are raising money for the widow and only daugther of New York Ciy MTA veteran of 18 years, William Pena, who died on February 12, 2014 in a tragic accident while on the job when hit by a stolen truck. William Pena was a 49 year old humble, funny and loved MTA driver who worked very hard in order to provide for his family. His priority in life was to pay off mortgage and save for college for his only daughter, Gabriela 17, currently in her senior year of high school. William Pena was a loving son that was also caring for his 75 year old Alzheimer diagnosed mom for the past 11 months as he had just lost his father and 8-year-old nephew hours apart on the same day last year on March 13, 2013. As widow and daughter undergo this unexpected loss and life changing experience, family and friends are concerned on how they will be forced to give up the dreams that the family had built together. Paying their mortgage and putting Gabriela through college might not be a possibility any longer. This is why the family and friends will like to come together to help raise money to create a college fund for Gabriela and help her maintain her living status. Our wish is to give Gabby, as William used to call her, the surprise that she may continue to live in the home that her dad chose for them and that she may persue her dream of a college education. We would love to reach our goal before her high school graduation this coming Spring. As her dad will always surprise her with memorable and humble gifts as we all remember how he took his only princess to the Dominican Republic to celebrate her 16th birthday almost two years ago.