MANHATTAN – A frightening scene on the Upper East Side Sunday morning when witnesses say a speeding taxi slammed into a Chase bank at the corner of East 79th Street and Third Avenue, bringing parts of the sidewalk shed and scaffolding crashing down, injuring two people.
“I’ve lived on the UES for 13 years and have never seen a car going that fast, nor have I been close to something like that,” said Eric Stechler, who says his family dodged the speeding taxi.
FDNY officials tell Upper East Site the first calls for help came in at 10:35 am, after the Toyota Camry yellow cab barreled into the scaffolding and slammed into the corner of the building.
According to the NYPD, the taxi that crashed was being chased by a second taxi, which struck the first one before it careened into the Chase bank.
Paramedics rushed the taxi driver that struck the building to Lenox Hill Hospital in critical condition, with a heart issue. The second taxi driver was arrested a short distance from the scene, police say. He was taken to Weill Cornell Medical Center with minor injuries.
FDNY’s elite Collapse Rescue unit was on the scene of the crash, working to secure the base of the sidewalk shed that had become unstable and partially come down on top of the taxi— the firefighters making sure there would be no further risk of the shed collapsing.
Witnesses say the yellow taxi was speeding before the crash.
Stechler says he and his wife, one-year-old daughter and their dog were crossing East 79th at Park Avenue when he saw the speeding taxi.
“My wife heard the cab coming from Madison [Avenue] and we had to run across the street because it was going so fast and running the red light,” the long-time Upper East Side resident said.
“There was a cab trailing it that was also going very fast but not as fast about a block behind it,” Stechler told Upper East Site, “but honking his horn to warn people.”
“Then I saw it take a hard left at Third Avenue. And that must’ve been when it crashed into the bank.”
“He went screaming through the light,” wrote another witness on social media, noting the collision was so violent it “sounded like a bomb went off.”
The NYPD Highway Patrol’s Collision Investigation Squad was also called to the scene. Officers shut down East 79th Street between Second and Third Avenues to give first responders space and to keep gawkers a safe distance from the unstable structure.
A small crowd formed across Third Avenue, feverishly taking photos and streaming on social media the destruction just fifty feet away from them.
Upper East Site reached out to the NYC Department of Buildings, which was on scene assessing structural stability, but did not hear back by time of publication.