CENTRAL ISLIP, N.Y. (AP) — A high-speed race along a suburban New York parkway led to a crash that ended in the fiery deaths of a father and his two children, prompting authorities to indict one of the drivers on vehicular homicide, drunken driving and other charges.
Three other people were charged with various crimes including helping the driver flee the scene.
Oniel Sharpe Jr. of Queens entered not guilty pleas through his attorney Thursday to a 41-count indictment. Prosecutors say Sharpe, 24, was intoxicated and driving at speeds over 100 mph on July 12 before his vehicle slammed into the rear of a car carrying a family of four. The family's vehicle burst into flames, Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota said.
Sharpe and several friends ignored the pleas for help from the lone survivor, Lucnie Bouaz-Ostane, as her husband, Ancio Ostane, and their children, 8-year-old Andy and 4-year-old Sephora, were consumed by flames, the prosecutor said.
"At the time when dying people needed help the most, the defendants, some of them, literally stood by watching the Ostane family — children and dad — perish," Spota said.
Prosecutors contend Sharpe and his friends were driving back to New York City on the Southern State Parkway after 1 a.m. from a party in Brentwood. In separate vehicles, Sharpe and Sheon Richards, 25, of Queens, began driving fast through traffic, Spota said. Sharpe was attempting to catch up with Richards' vehicle when he hit the back of the Ostanes' car, prosecutors said.
Spota said Sharpe was going between 70 and 75 mph, but said witnesses saw him driving much faster before the crash.
Richards pleaded not guilty to reckless driving and other charges. His attorney noted that Richards returned to the crash scene and did not try to flee.
Sharpe's attorney, Jonathan Manley, disputed allegations that his client refused to help the family, and also denied the prosecutor's claims that his client was intoxicated.
Spota said Sharpe had a blood-alcohol reading of 0.06, which is below the legal definition of 0.08 required for a driving-while-intoxicated charge. But Spota said that under a legal theory of "retrograde extrapolation," Sharpe's blood-alcohol reading was 0.12.
Manley insisted his client would be cleared of the DWI charge.
Prosecutors also charged Demetri Stewart, 23, of Queens, with criminal facilitation, leaving the scene of an accident and other crimes. Stewart was in his own vehicle and stopped at the crash scene, where he allegedly spirited away Sharpe and others in his car. Stewart's attorney pleaded not guilty on his behalf.
"My client is not the cause of this accident," attorney Jeffrey Cohen said at the arraignment.
Prosecutors also claim investigators found 23 fraudulent credit cards hidden in Sharpe's vehicle. Sharpe's cousin, Courtney Sharpe, pleaded not guilty to charges related to the alleged fraudulent credit card scheme.