Two arraigned in fatal Lawrence crash

Vehicle information sought by DA not available BMW says


The two people who allegedly caused a five-car crash that resulted in the death of an engaged couple on the Nassau Expressway in Lawrence on April 4 were arraigned on June 20.

Zakiyyah Steward, 25, of Park Avenue, Brooklyn, is charged with aggravated vehicular homicide, manslaughter, vehicular manslaughter and driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs.

Rahmel Watkins, 35, of Quincy Street, also in Brooklyn, faces charges include manslaughter, assault and reckless driving. He pleased not guilty and us being held on a $1 million bond and $500,000 cash bail.

Nine people in total were involved in the crash that occurred between Bay Boulevard near Rockaway Turnpike and Burnside Avenue at 1:40 a.m. Five people were taken to area hospitals for treatment and two others refused treatment at the scene, police said.

Elisheva Kaplan and Yisroel Levin were killed. Kaplan, 20, a Far Rockaway resident, is the daughter of Joel Kaplan, the cantor for Congregation Beth Sholom, in Lawrence. She was in a car with her fiancé, Yisroel Levin, 21, from the Flatbush section of Brooklyn. They had planned to be married in three months.

Watkins, according to prosecutors was driving a 2010 BMW 5501 GT, a car with 400 horsepower, “dangerously fast” and possibly racing at least one other vehicle before his car careered into the opposite lane and crashed into the 2017 Nissan Altima with Kaplan and Levin, the driver, inside. The Altima burst into flames and was thrown more than 200 feet back. The pair was trapped in the burning car, law enforcement officials said.

Authorities said that the BMW then hit an Infiniti, whose male driver suffered a broke spine. Steward was said to be speeding adjacent to Steward in a 2016 Hyundai Genesis. Allegedly driving under the influence of alcohol and marijuana, her car also struck the Altima, prosecutors said.

The Nassau County District Attorney’s office said it is seeking information about Watkins’ car from BMW."We need to know the speed, velocity and braking information of the BMW," DA Madeline Singas said. "The information is vital to the investigation and collision reconstruction."

Oleg Satanovsky, a spokesman for BMW, said that the 2010 model doesn’t have an event data recorder and noted that the National Highway Traffic Association guidelines documents what event data recorders should and such equipment was not mandated until 2013.

“Unfortunately that model does not have an event data recorder,” he said. “The Five series were the first cars to get the event data recorder, which is accessible using a commercially available tool, and depending on state privacy laws.”

Steward and Watkins are both due back in court on July 18.