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Manslaughter charges filed in Lawrence crash


Rahmel Watkins, one of the drivers in the fiery five-car crash on the Nassau Expressway in Lawrence on April 4 that resulted in two deaths, was charged with two counts of manslaughter second-degree, Nassau County police said. He was arraigned at First District Court in Hempstead on Monday.

Watkins, 35, of Quincy Street, in Brooklyn, was originally charged with driving while intoxicated in the accident, where 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.

When asked about the crash at the Village of Lawrence meeting on April 12, Mayor Alex Edelman said that the person or people involved would be “prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

Previously charged was Zakiyyah Steward, 25, of Park Avenue, also from Brooklyn. She is charged with driving while ability was impaired with drugs/alcohol, driving while intoxicated and unlawful possession of marijuana.

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.

Michael Fragin, the village’s deputy mayor said that he had met with Patrick Ryder, the Nassau County police commissioner, and spoke to the district attorney’s office and the chief of detectives the week after the accident.

“Many people were affected by this terrible tragedy,” Fragin said at the village meeting. “And you can be rest assured that the full weight of the law enforcement in Nassau County is going to be rightly brought to bear on this terrible situation.”