After an eight-day trial, Deborah C. Burns was found guilty on May 16 of three counts of second-degree manslaughter and two counts of second-degree assault. She is scheduled to return to court for sentencing on June 15, where she faces up to 15 years in prison.
According to trial records, on July 1, 2015, Burns was speeding down 210th Street (behind M.S. 74 in the Oakland Gardens section of Bayside) in a 2006 Ford Explorer when she crossed the double yellow line, striking a 2005 Toyota Camry that was operated by Young Ja Ha, 75.
Prosecutors said that an analysis of the Explorer’s crash data recorder revealed that Burns had been driving over 60 miles an hour just seconds before impact with the victim’s vehicle. The street’s speed limit was 25 miles per hour because it is a school zone.
According to testimony, Ha’s Camry spun out of control and hit a tree, causing the deaths of Susanna Ha, 42, and her daughters Angelica, 10, and Michelle Ung, 8, who were all passengers in the Camry. Susanna’s father, Young Ja, and her mother, Chung Ock Ha, 67, were severely injured in the crash.
Burns told police that she had just dropped off her children at a basketball game was circling the block in search of a parking spot, according to court reports. She stated that she was driving 40 miles per hour and it was the other driver that crossed the double yellow line, causing Burns to become nervous and swerve into the rear side of the Camry.
Video surveillance of the crash later revealed that Burns was driving at an unsafe speed and on the wrong side of the road.
“A jury listened to all the evidence and found [Burns] guilty of causing a deadly collision that claimed the life of a woman and her two children. This was a senseless tragedy that did not have to happen,” Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown said. “The defendant’s actions caused immeasurable agony to the victims’ family. In a 25 mph school zone, the defendant drove recklessly and at a high rate of speed. This frightening crash would have been even more horrific if students had been present at the time.”