• BREAKING NEWS Shelter in place lifted after prisoner captured

Police investigate crash into Astoria creek that killed 4

Sandra Bookman reports on changes enacted in the wake of crash that killed 4 teenagers.
April 7, 2014 2:37:43 PM PDT
Police investigators are looking at speed and rain as possible factors in the deadly crash of a car into a Queens creek that left four young people dead. On Saturday night, friends and family prayed for strength, comfort and understanding at an emotional vigil just one night after a birthday celebration turned into a stunning tragedy. Four young lives were lost when their car veered out of control and veered into Steinway Creek in Astoria. The driver was the sole survivor.

Police said on Sunday that the driver tried to make a quick U-turn on a dead-end street in the borough's Astoria neighborhood. Instead, authorities say the 2009 Honda Accord slipped on the wet road and tumbled into Steinway Creek late Friday evening.

On Saturday night, friends and family prayed for strength, comfort and understanding at an emotional vigil just one night after a birthday celebration turned into a stunning tragedy.

Four young lives were lost when their car veered out of control and veered into the creek. The driver was the sole survivor.

Many people came to the vigil asking why four lifelong friends could die in such a tragic way. There were endless tears and countless hugs ? not even a candlelight was bright enough to cast out the tremendous sense of darkness hanging over their heads.

Vilma Elliott knew something terrible had happened when detectives knocked on her door at 2 a.m. on Saturday.

Elliot's younger son, 21-year-old Darius Fletcher was one of four killed in a car crash.

"He just always did the right thing - he was in school, he was a senior and was going to graduate next year," says Elliott.

The accident happened on Friday night at the end of 19th Avenue, a dead-end street in Astoria. The Honda Accord went airborne, and went into Steinway Creek, which feeds into the East River.

CLICK HERE to view photos from the scene.

With his friends trapped underwater, the driver, 20-year-old Andrew Gramm managed to swim to safety and call 911.

"The car was actually flipped on its roof," said Batallion Chief James Jacobs, "the roof was on the bottom of the creek, and the bottom of the car was about eight feet under water."

The four who died were friends who grew up together and lived on the same block.

In addition to Darius Fletcher, 19-year-old Jada Monique Butts, 20-year-old Jaleel Furtado and 19-year-old Crystal Gravely also died. Gravely would have been 20 years old on Saturday. The group was out celebrating.

With daylight on their side, emergency services pulled the wreck out of the water on Saturday, now using the car as evidence in a crash that has shattered four families.

"This is senseless. This is so senseless. This is a tragic, tragic loss," said Fletcher's aunt, Alicia Nation, "I feel like I am in the twilight zone, I wish someone would wake me up."

Police tell Eyewitness News that the driver was not drunk, and so far has not been charged.

There were no skid marks found on the ground, but it is currently unclear why the five were in the industrial section of Astoria in the first place.

The NYPD is investigating whether speed was a factor in the crash.

Police visited a car service business that has security cameras trained in the direction the car would have been going in hopes of learning the vehicle's speed in the seconds before it crashed.

After the car had been removed, city Department of Transportation workers placed a concrete barrier at the end of the dead-end street.

Another vehicle also crashed into the water just blocks away. The first crash happened around 10:30 on Friday. Just before 4 a.m. a second vehicle went through a guardrail where 20th Avenue ends at Shore Boulevard. The SUV landed upside-down in the East River. A neighbor says she found four people standing in the water, and she helped them get back up onto dry land.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


Load Comments