By Mark Hallum
A Jackson Heights woman was sentenced to 12 to 22 years behind bars after being convicted of manslaughter and other charges in a deadly Oakland Gardens crash that took the lives of three family members in 2015, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said.
Deborah Burns, 48, was traveling at over 60 miles per hour in a 15-mile-per-hour school zone when her Ford Explorer crossed the double yellow line and slammed into a Toyota Camry carrying five people in 2015.
Susanna Ha, 42, and her 10-year-old daughter Angelica Ung, both died hours after the wreck occurred, according to the DA, while Ha’s 8-year-old daughter Michelle Ung died three days later.
Ha’s elderly parents, her 74-year-old father Young Ju Ha and mother Chung Ock Ha, 67, were seated t in the front of the car and critically injured the accident, the DA said.
Queens Supreme Court Justice Michael Aloise presided over the jury trial that found Burns guilty of three counts of second-degree manslaughter and two counts of second-degree assault, according to Brown.
“This was a senseless tragedy that did not have to happen. The defendant caused a horrific crash that took the lives of a mother and her two young children. A vehicle is not a toy and should be driven with the greatest of care at all times,” Brown said. “But this defendant barreled down a street at an excessive rate of speed, mindless of the 15 mph posted speed limit in the school zone. She drove recklessly and veered into oncoming traffic. The defendant’s actions caused immeasurable agony to the victims’ family. She has now been sentenced to a lengthy term of incarceration.
Burns claimed she had just dropped of her two sons at a basketball game and had been circling the block looking for a place to park. According to the DA, Burns said she was only driving 40 miles an hour and the driver of the Camry, Ha’s father, was the one who had veered into her lane.
Video surveillance showed this to be untrue, along with information from the “black box” data recorder in the woman’s SUV. Those showed Burns was driving over 60 mph northbound on 210th Street as she passed MS 74 near Cunningham Park where the collision occurred.
A release by Brown’s office relating to Burns’ December 2015 arraignment alleged that a toxicology report showed Burns had cocaine in her system.
Ultimately, this did not end up being a factor in her conviction, a DA spokeswoman said.
Burns is to serve an indeterminate 5 to 15 years of incarceration on the manslaughter charges and seven years on assault charges, to be followed by three years of post release supervision, according to Brown. The manslaughter and assault sentences were to run consecutively as ordered by Aloise.
Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhall