More sacrifices for the American way of life. From Newsday, July 14:
Crash van driver had suspended license
The ambulette driver who crashed into a tree on Broad Channel in Queens killing five passengers from an adult home had sped off just beforehand after drifting into another lane and nearly striking a woman in a silver car, a police source said Thursday.
“She said he was drifting into her lane, then sped up and crashed into the tree,” the source said. “They feel she’s a credible witness. She stayed at the scene and called 911.”
The revelation came amid a contradictory claim by the ambulette driver, Guy Thelemaque, 55, who said he was run off Cross Bay Boulevard by a second car as he headed north Wednesday.
Thelemaque faces charges for driving with a suspended license and a source said he could face additional charges if investigators determine he was driving recklessly.
Thelemaque’s license was suspended June 26 when he failed to answer a summons issued after he allegedly made an illegal turn, according to records and law enforcement sources. He also has convictions for driving while talking on a cell phone, running a stop sign and not wearing a seat belt — and he was involved in two accidents that involved injuries.
Thelemaque tested negative for drugs or alcohol and told investigators “he was cut off,” a law enforcement source said. But police said four other witnesses back up the account provided by the silver car’s driver.
The ambulette passed its last inspection in May. But according to the state Department of Transportation, Altima Transportation Llc of Inwood in Nassau County, the van’s owner, was issued a violation in March because less than 75 percent of its fleet had passed inspection.
Altima officials did not respond to requests for comment. A Peninsula Center spokeswoman said officials there did not know that Thelemaque was driving with a suspended license.
The crash ignited a fire that killed five residents of the Brooklyn Manor Home For Adults in East New York.
Four other residents, plus Thelemaque, were hurt but are expected to survive.
The driver’s family said the Haitian born father of two is anything but reckless.
“He told my mother he was driving at a normal pace,” Samantha, 14, his oldest daughter, said outside the family’s Flatbush apartment. “He was trying to avoid the crash. He said he was about to be hit by another car. I’m very sad that the other people got hurt. My father cares about everybody.”
The dead — Jose Alvarez, 55; Miguel Cruz, 56; Mario Gonzalez, 58; William Smith, 69; and James Lawson, 79 — had spent the day at the Peninsula Center for Extended Care and Rehabilitation in Far Rockaway, and were heading back to Brooklyn Manor when the van crashed.
Thelemaque is in critical condition at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center. At that hospital’s burn unit is Jean Hastik, 60, who also is in critical condition.
Two victims, Carl Hawking, 44, and Jose Prieto, 56, were in serious condition at Mary Immaculate Hospital, but Prieto was later transferred to Kings County Hospital and Hawkins to NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center.
The other victim, Shelton Wilson, 41, was released yesterday from Jamaica Medical Center but refused comment. Grief and anger were on full display at the Manor, which services those with mental disabilities and substance abuse problems. Grief counselors were available and Manor officials hung up a memorial wreath next to a group photo of the victims.
One resident there said she has stopped using the ambulette service. “Whenever you turn around, they’re talking on their cell phones, speeding, running the lights, screaming at girls on the street,” said Mary Lagrasta, 44.
Outside, the Rev. Thomas Williamson gathered residents together for additional prayers.
“A lot of them are here because of depression,” he later explained. “We don’t want them to carry that depression into a further state.”
Among those who joined the residents was Jose Olivera, 71, Gonzalez’s uncle. Gonzalez was “a little slow” since he was a child, Olivera said, but carved out a life for himself, working in the laundry room at the Plaza Hotel for 30 years, until his retirement in 1999. “He was a kind man and he could take care of himself,” Olivera said.
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