The St. Albans driver who crashed her van full of foster girls admitted she was speeding while high on crack, heroin and alcohol, the Queens district attorney said.
Sheila Bethea, 45, of St. Albans was formally arraigned Wednesday on manslaughter, reckless endangerment and endangering the welfare of a child charges in the Monday evening accident that killed two of her foster sisters and sent herself and five others to the hospital, according to the DA.
Bethea told investigators after the crash that she smoked crack cocaine around 1 a.m. or 2 a.m. that morning, did heroin around 9 a.m. and drank an alcoholic beverage at noon, according to police.
Additional charges could be placed on the driver, who was driving her Mazda minivan with six passengers without a middle row of seats, depending on the results of drug tests, a spokeswoman for the DA’s office said. Bethea was held on $500,000 bail and was ordered to return to court Nov. 12, according to the DA.
Bethea was driving her vehicle northbound on Dunkirk Street near Arcade Avenue around 5 p.m. when she crossed the double yellow lines, drove sideways and collided with a Toyota minivan that was driving southbound on the street, investigators said.
Two of the passengers — Katherine Willis, 15, and Melissa Elh-Mirra, 5 — were killed while three of the other young passengers — Tatiyana Bethea, 5; Camera Sedonovich, 10; and Allyahh Garcia, 11 — were sent to area hospitals in various conditions, police said.
Bethea’s mother cared for Willis, Elh-Mirra, Sedonovich and Garcia as a foster mom and legally adopted Tatiyana Bethea, according to the DA. The driver told police she did not know 5-year-olds needed to be sitting in car seats while driving, the DA said.
Another passenger in the Mazda, Fatou Sonko, 43, was also sent to the hospital for treatment for her injuries. The driver of the Toyota minivan, Carl Williams, 63, was also sent to a hospital but was not charged for the accident.
Witnesses who saw the accident said Shelia Bethea appeared disorientated and acted wildly as nearby residents and first responders came on the scene to help the children.
©2009 Community News Group
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