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Astoria man sentenced in fatal hit-and-run of Betty Jean DiBiasio

By Bill Parry

An Astoria man has been sentenced to up to four years in state prison in the fatal hit-and-run collision that took the life of 21-year-old Betty Jean DiBiasio in June, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown announced last week. Nicholas Colleran, 25, pleaded guilty to criminally negligent homicide and failure to yield the right of way for going through a stop sign and striking the young Astoria resident in a marked crosswalk.

Colleran, who had been held in lieu of $200,000 bail since his arrest in June, pleaded guilty to the charges last month before Acting Supreme Court Justice Dorothy Chin-Brandt, who last week sentenced him to the maximum under the law—an indeterminate term of from 1 1/3 years to four years in prison.

“This case is yet another example of how deadly motor vehicles can be and the consequences of ignoring traffic regulations,” Brown said. “Driving is a privilege, not a right, and extreme caution should be exercised at all times in order to prevent lives from being senselessly destroyed.”

According to the criminal charges, DiBiasio was crossing at the intersection of Ditmars Boulevard and 19th Street on the night of June 27 when Colleran drove his 2002 Chevy Impala through the stop sign and struck DiBiasio. Witnesses at the scene said DiBiasio hit the driver’s side windshield and fell to the ground and the Impala took off without stopping.

The victim was taken to a hospital where she was pronounced dead of the injuries she sustained in the collision. Colleran’s vehicle was discovered with a broken windshield, a broken driver’s-side rear-view mirror, and a damaged driver’s-side front fender.

There also appeared to be blood and hair in the driver’s-side windshield, where it was broken, and was consistent with a vehicle which struck a pedestrian who hit the windshield. Colleran surrendered himself to the 114th Precinct June 28, and admitted to driving the Impala on Ditmars Boulevard just after midnight June 27. Colleran told police he had consumed two beers prior to driving and had hit DiBiasio. He further said there was damage to his windshield and that he panicked after the collision and fled the scene.

In the aftermath of DiBiasio’s death, City Councilman Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria) petitioned the city Department of Transportation to introduce traffic-calming measures to the streets in and around Astoria Park. DiBiasio was and killed at the northeast corner of the park.

State Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas (D-Astoria) followed in August with a call to close Shore Boulevard to motorists, saying the half-mile stretch of riverfront roadway between Astoria Park South and Ditmars Boulevard was too dangerous, citing numerous accidents involving pedestrians and drivers. The proposal proved to be a controversial one, however. Within days an online petition opposing the idea appeared and more than 1,200 people signed on.

After a town hall meeting in November, DOT Commissioner decided earlier this month to reject the proposal to close Shore Boulevard.

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparry@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4538.

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