Absurd denial of ‘drunk’ garbo who killed an Aussie
THE stunned family of the 23-year-old Australian woman killed in a New York cycling accident have laid bare their devastation, with her tearful father revealing he had only spoken to her the day before she was struck by a garbage truck driven by an alleged drink-driver.
Tributes poured in yesterday for Madison Lyden, as the truck driver who fatally struck her in Central Park faced drink-driving charges in court, where his lawyer argued that he wasn't affected by alcohol because he had eaten a "chicken sandwich".
Geelong council worker Ms Lyden died Friday afternoon, local time, when she swerved her hire bike out of the way of an Uber vehicle and in front of the truck driven by Felipe Chairez, 44.
The tragedy came at the end of a two-month dream trip through America and Asia with friends, one of whom was still by Ms Lyden's side when she was struck.
Dad Andrew Lyen and Madison's twin sister Paige both revealed their heartbreak at learning the news.
Tasmanian builder Andrew fought back tears as he told of his last exchange with his daughter.
"She'd only spoken to me I think the previous day or the day before and said, 'Dad, can you believe your little girl's in New York City'," he told Channel 7 news last night.
"For her to be taken from us in such a horrific way is gut-wrenching.
"Words can't describe how heartbreaking this is."
"I don't really know where to begin on what Madison meant to me and our family," said Paige.
New York Police arrested Chairez at the scene after finding three empty cans of beer in the cab of his truck, and charged him with driving under the influence, while the city's mayor Bill de Blasio pledged a full investigation.
Chairez admitted drinking two beers with lunch before leaving work at a downtown construction site to take a load of garbage to the Bronx.
The driver's blood alcohol level was between 0.04 and 0.06, according to court documents. But his lawyer Kenneth Ware said in court it was possible the beers would not have impacted his driving because of the food he had eaten.
"If what they say is true, that he had a chicken salad sandwich - then if he had alcohol, the alcohol may have been able to be absorbed by his lunch he had," Mr Ware told the court yesterday.
"If that's true … all he is charged with right now is a misdemeanour."
Chairez was ordered to surrender his licence and released without being required to post bail after being charged with drink-driving, driving while impaired and operating a commercial vehicle while intoxicated.
In New York the standard for a drunken driving charge is 0.08, but for drivers of commercial vehicles it is 0.04.
While Chairez would not comment as he left court, the news of Ms Lyden's death sparked grief and tributes from Tasmania, where she grew up, and in Victoria, where she studied psychology at Deakin University before starting work with City of Greater Geelong as a lifeguard.
Her former school MacKillop Catholic College sent out condolences to her family: "Our thoughts and prayers are with Madison's family, in particular Madison's twin sister Paige, who is also a former student of the college and her stepmother, Lee-Anne, who is a former staff member."
Guildford Young College in Glenorchy also paid tribute to Madison as "a great friend of many of our past students" while highlighting the plight of Ms Lyden's friend, Pam Mansfield, who was at the tragic scene in New York.
One of her Geelong friends described Ms Lyden as a dedicated student who "wanted to see the world". "It's just so unfair," she said.
Emily Boubis was among heartbroken friends taking to social media yesterday, writing that: "You were a bubbly and bright soul."
Her father is known across Hobart for having sold a number of houses to raise money for charities. Among them was Madison House, named after his type 1 diabetes-diagnosed daughter, and which was sold to raise funds for Diabetes Tasmania in 2011.