By Rich Bockmann and Karen Frantz
Families and friends of a South Ozone Park teen, one of four Queens youths killed in a car crash in Long Island on Columbus Day, gathered at S.J. Romanelli Funeral Home at 114-30 Rockaway Blvd. for his service Friday.
Friends described 18-year-old Peter Kanhai as a boy who loved to play basketball and had an on-point jump shot, adored the Boston Celtics and liked pizza and going to eat at Romeo’s Pizzeria, at Lefferts and Rockaway boulevards.
One friend, Mohammad, 18, said he was friends with Kanhai in middle school. When asked what he would remember about his friend, Mohammad said, “The smile he left behind. It’s crazy that under the circumstances he’s still got a smile on his face.”
Kanhai attended John Adams High School and had started at Queensborough Community College in January.
He and Christopher Khan, 18, Neil Rajapa, 17, and Darian Ramnarine, 18, died instantly after the car they were in careened off the Southern State Parkway in Hempstead, L.I., and crashed into some trees early on the morning of Oct. 8., police said. Khan and Rajapa were also from South Ozone Park and Ramnarine was from Jamaica.
The Associated Press reported the crash split the car in half, and the authorities said all the occupants were ejected from the car.
The young driver, 17-year-old Joseph Beer of South Richmond Hill, had a learner’s permit but did not have a license, police said. Beer suffered a broken sternum and was taken to Winthrop Hospital on Long Island, police said. He was released Oct. 9, according to NBC New York.
Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice said last week it was premature to discuss potential criminal charges against Beer.
“I know there is a great deal of speculation about the causes of this tragedy, but we simply do not know the precise factors that led to the crash,” Rice said in a prepared statement.
She said blood from Beer was sent to a lab to be screened for alcohol and drugs and the results will most likely take a while before they are available.
She also said her office has reached out to Subaru, the maker of the 2012 Imprezza that Beer was driving, to see if the car had a black box that would have data about how fast it was going at the time of the crash.
Friends and supporters of Beer ran a petition on change.org, an online platform for creating petitions, pleading that potential charges against him be dismissed. The petition contends Beer was not intentionally trying to hurt anyone and he is already being punished with the death of his four close friends.
“Joseph has suffered not only physical injuries, but mental and emotional ones that cannot be healed,” the petition says.
Friends of Kanhai said people should take the crash as a lesson to be careful about driving fast cars.
“We already told everybody this should be a message,” Mohammad said.
Another friend, Avenish Ramkumar, 17, agreed.
“You can’t drive a car like that if you’re not experienced,” he said.
Reach reporter Karen Frantz by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.