By Christina Santucci
An Astoria man has been charged with hitting and killing a beloved grandfather, who was a refugee from the Cuban Revolution, with an SUV while allegedly intoxicated, the Queens district attorney’s office said.
Demitrios Matsoukatidis, 67, of 23rd Street, was arraigned on second-degree vehicular manslaughter in the death of Lizardo Aldama, 89, and operating a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, the DA said. He was held on $50,000 bail.
The DA said police responding to the accident allegedly noticed that Matsoukatidis had bloodshot, watery eyes and smelled of booze. An intoxilyzer test given to Matsoukatidis registered at .16, double the state’s legal limit of .08, according to the DA’s office.
“[Matsoukatidis] has to live with that, and it’s something that could have been avoided. He shouldn’t have been behind the wheel of his car,” said Aldama’s devastated daughter, Maite Aldama-Foertsch, 56.
Police said Aldama had been crossing at the intersection of 31st Street and 21st Avenue — one block from his home — at about 6 p.m. when he was struck.
Several neighbors said that after Aldama was hit, he was dragged by the black Mercedes SUV.
“People had to scream at him [the driver] to get off of him,” said Patricia Kazakos, 50, who lives in the same building as Aldama and said she arrived at the corner after the accident.
“When I saw the cane, I knew it was him,” Kazakos said of her neighbor.
Aldama-Foertsch said her father, a native of Cuba whose parents were originally from Spain, was extremely independent and a fixture in the Ditmars section of Astoria, where he had lived for more than 50 years.
“He was still full of life, had lots of plans, lots of chapters to complete,” she said. “He wasn’t quite ready to make an exit.”
His nephew Carlos Lopez, 57, owner of Havana Express on 31st Street in Astoria, said he and Aldama left their homeland in 1959 on the last ship to legally depart Cuba before the revolution.
In America, Aldama worked in a factory that made meters for cars and was a devoted family man, his daughter said.
“His wife and his kids came first,” Aldama-Foertsch said.
The death of Aldama’s wife Terre six years ago was a terrible blow to him, his daughter said.
The family had planned to celebrate the 18th birthday of Aldama’s grandson, Andrew, together in Long Island this week.
“He lived for his grandson,” Aldama-Foertsch said, explaining that the pair intended to travel to Florida to visit Aldama other child, his son, after Andrew graduated from high school.
“It’s still a little bit of a shock,” she said.
Aldama-Foertsch described her father as a “real city guy” and said he enjoyed walking around Astoria and chatting with neighbors.
“He’s going to be missed tremendously,” she said. “He felt that when you made a friend, it’s for life and it’s true, especially for him.”