Prosecutor: Driver cleared overpasses twice, crashed into third

Raymond Ragen, left, 44, of Mineola, faces arraignment Raymond Ragen, left, 44, of Mineola, faces arraignment Wednesday in First District Court in Hempstead in the July 23, 2012, crash, pictured right, that killed mini-school-bus driver Jorge Guevara, 45. (Jan. 22, 2013) Photo Credit: NCPD; Howard Schnapp

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A man accused of crashing a cement mixer into a Locust Valley overpass last summer, crushing a minibus carrying special needs children and killing its driver, had twice tempted fate before the wreck, a prosecutor argued Friday.

Hours before the July 23 crash, Raymond Ragen twice drove his 80,000-pound truck down the centerline because he knew the only way he would clear two overpasses was to stay in the middle of the road, where the arch was highest, prosecutor Brendan Ahern told an appellate panel in Brooklyn.

When he hit the third overpass, Ragen, 44, of Mineola, was also high on Valium, talking on a handheld cellphone and driving without a valid license, Ahern said.

"This is a horror show," he told the four-judge panel.

Ragen is accused of aggravated vehicular homicide, manslaughter and other charges in the crash that killed bus driver Jorge Guevara, 45, of Locust Valley, and hurt a bus matron and four autistic children. He faces up to 25 years in prison if convicted.

Ragen's lawyer, Michelle Aulivola of Bay Shore, is asking the appeals court to lift or reduce her client's $750,000 bail. The panel is expected to rule on the matter soon.

In court, Aulivola said Ragen has lost his job, does not own a home and does not have relatives able or willing to post his bail.

"They don't have confidence in him, but you want us to have confidence in him?" Justice Jeffrey Cohen asked the defense attorney.

Aulivola argued that the crash was not a criminal act, and disputed Ahern's claim that her client was driving without a valid license.

"This was a tragic accident," she said. "But it was just that -- an accident."

Justice David Levinthal said the amount of Valium in Ragen's system was not enough to cause significant impairment, a fact Ahern disputed. Aulivola also said it has been 22 years since Ragen's last drug-related conviction, a fact that Ahern also called false.

Ahern said in court that GPS records showed that Ragen, earlier that day, drove toward the Locust Valley overpass he hit and turned around, suggesting that he knew his truck wouldn't clear it.

"This never should have happened," he said.

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