Drunk driver in Auburndale kills great grandma, 74: DA

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The driver, Michael Hirn of 49-19 169th St., was making a lefthand turn from 43rd Avenue onto 163rd Street when his Dodge pickup truck hit the woman, Natividad Jimenez, a block from her home on 164-09 43rd Ave., police said. She was headed to a nearby hair salon in preparation for her trip, but was instead taken to New York Hospital Queens in Flushing, where she was pronounced dead nearly an hour later.

Hirn, a 50-year-old self-employed roofer, was charged with driving while intoxicated after a Breathalyzer test registered a blood alcohol content of .111, exceeding the legal limit of .08, said Queens District Attorney Richard Brown, citing the criminal complaint. Hirn was arraigned Sunday in State Supreme Court in Kew Gardens before Judge Joel Blumenfeld, who ordered him held on $25,000 bail and set a return date of Aug. 11, Brown said. Hirn faces up to four years in prison if convicted.

"The sad and tragic incident is yet another example of why drinking and driving are a lethal mixture," Brown said.

Hirn's wife, Annette, referred all questions to her husband's lawyer, Anthony Malillo, who declined to comment.

After hitting Jimenez, Hirn stopped his truck and was later arrested at the scene, police said. Officers found ten 12-ounce beer bottles--eight of them empty, two of them unopened--and an empty 750-mililiter bottle of Scotch whisky, the DA said. Hirn told the officers he had drunk a couple of beers, Brown said, although it was unclear when the roofer consumed them.

The Auburndale man was previously convicted of driving drunk twice in 1996, once in Ulster County and once in Sullivan County in upstate New York, Brown said.

On Saturday evening, Jimenez's family members attached a bouquet of flowers to a neighborhood street pole, with fliers from the police seeking more information papered nearby.

Manslaughter charges against drivers in fatal accidents are rare, a spokesman for the DA said, since prosecutors must be able to show both recklessness, such as drunk driving, and another factor such as speeding or running a stop sign. There is currently no evidence that Hirn did either, the spokesman said.

Neighbors said streets in the area had been changed from two-way to one-way and stop signs had been added in the past few years, causing confusion. Others drivers, they said, blatantly blow through the stop signs, with a drainage construction project nearby causing further aggravation in an already congested area.

"This street has always been a hazard," said Bill Soohoo, speaking both of 43rd Avenue and 163rd Street. "There are accidents all the time."

Jimenez's daughter Cecilia Wolf, 56, said she realized her mother had been the victim of one of those accidents when she saw the older woman's purse lying in the intersection. Speaking at the home Jimenez shared with her husband, Wolf said while her father was the provider, her mother was the one who held the family together.

"She was the boss," Wolf said of Jimenez, who all family members called "mama" regardless of generation. "We're going to crumble without her."

Born on Christmas and named after the holiday, Jimenez emigrated from the Dominican Republic in 1975, and though she was from the old country she was always understanding of younger relatives.

"We could come to her with every problem of the modern age and she was always there for us," Wolf said, adding that her mother had just received a clean bill of health during a physical exam.

In addition to Wolf, her husband and her mother, Jimenez is survived by five daughters, three sons, 18 grandchildren and five great grandchildren.

A viewing was scheduled at Rivera Funeral Home at 104-02 37th Ave. in Corona Tuesday and Wednesday, with the funeral to take place across the street at Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic Church.

Donations can be made in Jimenez's name to the American Diabetes Association, Wolf said.

Updated 7:13 pm, October 10, 2011
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