A Maspeth man pleaded guilty to aggravated vehicular homicide for a series of drunk driving crashes that resulted in the death of a Woodside pedestrian in 2019.
Jorge Samaniego, 51, of Hull Avenue, pleaded guilty before Queens Supreme Court Justice Gene Lopez, who ordered him to return to court on Oct. 4, when he is expected to sentence Samaniego to a term of five to 15 years in prison.
According to Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz, shortly before 8 p.m. on Dec. 11, 2019, near Broadway and 55th Street, Samaniego was driving a Honda Odyssey minivan and rear-ended a red Infiniti as the driver was approaching a red light. The driver of the Infiniti got out of his car to survey the damage and asked Samaniego if he was okay. Without saying a word, Samaniego drove away from the scene.
He then drove erratically on Broadway to 60th Street, went through a red light, and struck Woodside resident Alnerto Zamacona, 47, in the crosswalk and kept driving. At 61st Street, Samaniego veered into oncoming traffic to avoid slamming into a car stopped at a red light, according to Katz. The minivan then struck a taxi head on with so much force the vehicle was pushed backwards and struck a Toyota Sienna, which in turn hit a Jeep Grand Cherokee.
According to the complaint, Zamacona was rushed to Elmhurst Hospital, where he died with irreversible brain damage.
The chain reaction crash caused damage to the three vehicles and one of the drivers needed medical attention for non-life-threatening injuries.
The DA said when police responded to the scene, they found Samaniego exhibiting signs of intoxication including bloodshot eyes, slurred speech and smelling of alcohol. He was taken to a nearby police precinct where a test showed he had a blood alcohol level of .187, which is above the legal limit of .08.
“Mr. Samaniego made the selfish decision to get behind the wheel of a car while drunk,” Katz said. “His actions led to multiple collisions and the death of a man who had simply been taking a walk in the neighborhood. No one has the right to be this reckless.”