Police are continuing the investigation into an accident that killed four friends after their car plunged into an Astoria creek as one politician calls for a review of safety measures on roads leading to the water.
A Honda Accord carrying four passengers and a driver was traveling on 19th Avenue near 37th Street about 10:40 p.m. Friday when it hit the curb and rolled over into Steinway Creek, police said.
The driver, identified in reports as 20-year-old Andrew Gramm, was traveling at 60 mph when he decided to make a u-turn on the wet road, according to reports. Once the vehicle went into the water, reportedly 8-feet deep, Gramm managed to escape the vehicle and call for help, cops said, but four people were still inside the car when authorities arrived.
FDNY divers then extracted the passengers, Darius Fletcher, 21, Jada Monique Butts, 19, Crystal Gravely, 19, and Jaleel Feurtado, 20, all from East Elmhurst, according to police.
The women and one of the men were taken to Elmhurst Hospital Center where they were pronounced dead, officials said. The second man was taken to Mt. Sinai Hospital where he was also pronounced deceased.
Gravely would have celebrated her 20th birthday on Saturday, reports said.
Gramm was taken to Elmhurst Hospital Center, police said. He was given a preliminary breath test where results showed he was sober during the time of the accident, according to police.
The NYPD’s Highway Collision Investigation Squad is still looking into the accident.
On Facebook, family and friends are mourning the loss of the four young lives through posts and photos.
“Speechless…The only reason I can cope with this is trusting and knowing if God took these kids from us it’s because God has plans for them. Just a tough pill to swallow,” wrote Kay Roberts on Saturday together with a photo of the four friends.
Vernon Feurtado, who according to Facebook posts is one of the victim’s fathers, remembered his son, Jaleel, through photos of the two together.
Senator Michael Gianaris is now calling on the Department of Transportation (DOT) to conduct a review of safety measures on the various roads, including 19th Avenue, which lead to the water. According to the senator, reports of the crash have created questions about the chain-link fence that is supposed to serve as a barricade between the street and the creek. There is also not sufficient signage specifying that the street becomes a dead end.
“As our community deals with this tragic accident, we must work together to prevent similar tragedies from occurring in the future,” Gianaris said. “DOT must make our streets safer by reviewing all roads leading to waterways as there may be similar dangers in other neighborhoods throughout our city. This accident was avoidable, and something must be done to keep people safe as they drive, walk or cycle on our roadways.”
A DOT spokesman said the agency had installed an “END” sign where 19th Avenue terminates and two highly visible “Dead End” signs at the intersection last October and which were in place at the time of the accident.
Early Saturday afternoon the DOT also secured the area with jersey barriers and barrels, and also replaced the “END” sign. The spokesman said the agency will be looking into the report of a section of the guiderail missing, even though a preliminary review does not point to any recent reports on the missing section. The DOT will also review condition at streets ending near water.