Drunk driver kills Astoria woman: DA

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A 24−year−old Long Island man was arrested early Sunday morning after he allegedly drove drunk, crashing his Range Rover into a livery cab at the intersection of 34th Street and 31st Avenue and killing a 30−year−old Cypriot immigrant from Astoria as well as the cab’s driver, the Queens district attorney said.

Panayiota Demetriou, who lived on 34th Street in Astoria, and Bessy Velasquez, 41, of Brooklyn, died after Daryush Omar, of Plainview, L.I., allegedly drove drunk and smashed his vehicle into the livery cab driven by Velasquez, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said.

Omar was arraigned Sunday night before Queens Criminal Court Judge Robert Raciti on charges of manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide, reckless driving, operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol and speeding, the DA said.

Omar, who was born in Pakistan, was held without bail and ordered to return to court Dec. 1, Brown said. If convicted, he could face up to 15 years in prison, the DA said.

In a separate case, Omar has also been charged with second degree murder but not indicted in the 2006 death of New Jersey’s Thomas Whitney Jr., who was fatally beaten outside a Chelsea bar, a spokeswoman for Manhattan DA Robert Morgenthau said. He will return to court in Manhattan on Dec. 12 for his alleged role in that incident, a spokeswoman for Morgenthau said.

Long Island City resident Evangelos Fotiou, 42, of 31−18 34th St., was also arrested following the accident, the DA said. Fotiou was charged with petit larceny and obstructing governmental administration after he allegedly pocketed money he found in the crashed car, Brown said.

Demetriou, whose parents and siblings live in Cyprus, had been studying for a graduate degree in child psychology at Pace University and had worked as an emergency room psychiatrist at Brookdale University & Medical Center in Brooklyn, said Effie Delimarkos Fletcher, a friend of Demetriou’s who lives in Astoria.

“She was probably the most loving, energetic person I know,” Delimarkos Fletcher said. “She could befriend the most difficult person, which showed in what she wanted to do [for a career]. A lot of people are mourning her loss.”

A wake was planned Tuesday evening for Demetriou at Astoria’s Farenga & Sons Funeral Home on Ditmars Boulevard, Delimarkos Fletcher said.

Velasquez was driving the livery cab and Demetriou was a passenger, the DA said.

Omar, who works for a coffee supply company, had allegedly been driving his Range Rover at more than 45 miles per hour around 3:10 a.m. Sunday morning when he blew through a red light at the intersection of 34th Street and 31st Avenue in Astoria, colliding with the livery cab, the DA said.

Both women suffered massive body trauma and were taken to Mt. Sinai Queens Hospital,where they died, Brown said.

At the time of his arrest, Omar allegedly admitted that he had two drinks and a Breathalyzer test found that his blood alcohol content was at twice the legal limit, Brown said.

According to the New York Post, the federal government had been attempting to deport Omar for nearly 19 years. The Post reported that Omar was living in the country illegally.

Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e−mail at or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 156.

Updated 6:39 pm, October 10, 2011
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