Drunk driver sentenced for killing cabbie, Astoria woman

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A 25-year-old Long Island man has been sentenced to 3 1/2 years to 10 1/2 years in prison for driving drunk and crashing into a livery cab in Astoria in November, killing a 30-year-old Cypriot woman from the neighborhood as well as the cab’s driver, the Queens district attorney said.

Daryush Omar, who lives in Plainview, L.I., pleaded guilty Aug. 19 to vehicular manslaughter before Queens Supreme Court Justice Lenora Gerald, who handed down the sentence Sept. 9, Queens DA Richard Brown said.

“The defendant in this case chose to get behind the wheel of a car while under the influence of alcohol and to speed through a red light,” the DA said. “Two lives were senselessly destroyed. Many more people, including the driver’s young daughters and the passenger’s parents and siblings, will carry the pain of these deaths for the rest of their lives.”

The defendant, who was born in Pakistan, 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.

On Nov. 16, Omar drove his Range Rover drunk around 3:10 a.m. at more than 45 miles per hour, blowing through a red light at the intersection of 34th Street and 31st Avenue and colliding with a livery cab driven by Brooklyn’s Bessy Velasquez, 41, that carried passenger Panayiota Demetriou, 30, who lived on 34th Street in Astoria. Both women were killed in the crash.

“As far as I’m concerned, there can never be justice,” said Demetris Demetriou, Panayiota Demetriou’s father. “This man will be free in several years’ time. I lost my daughter and we cannot reverse that. Our lives have changed forever and nothing matters anymore. Our loss is huge. Panayiota was full of life. She liked new adventures and making new friends. She had so much to look forward to.”

He said police told his daughter’s friends on the night of the accident that Omar had shown no remorse and that upon being told by arresting officers that he had killed two women in the crash, he responded, “That’s two less b-----s to worry about.”

“If you look at that comment, it paints a clear picture of what kind of person he is,” Demetris Demetriou said.

Demetriou 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.

Omar, whose blood alcohol content was twice the legal limit at the time of his arrest, will be deported after serving his sentence.

Demetriou’s family will soon file a lawsuit against Astoria’s Cavo Lounge, where attorney Scott Rynecki said Omar had been drinking prior to the fatal accident.

“[Omar] had said he was at that club and was drinking past the legal limit,” Rynecki said. “Bars should be held responsible if they are going to have a liquor license. They can’t keep serving drinks to someone who is intoxicated.”

He said the suit would be filed under the Dram Shop Act, which holds establishments responsible for serving patrons who are intoxicated.

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

Updated 7:08 pm, September 14, 2011
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