An alleged drunken driver accused of causing a fiery crash that killed a college professor and his two young children on the Southern State Parkway fled the crash scene and left the victims to die, a Suffolk prosecutor said Monday.
Oniel Sharpe Jr., 24, of Springfield Gardens, Queens, pleaded not guilty to charges of driving while intoxicated and leaving the scene of an accident during his arraignment in First District Court in Central Islip. Sharpe was ordered held on $250,000 cash bail or $500,000 bond and is scheduled to appear in court on Friday.
Assistant Suffolk County District Attorney Patricia Brosco had requested Judge Pierce Cohalan set bail at $500,000 cash or $1 million bond.EditorialEditorial: It's time to get serious about drunken driving
Sharpe is accused of causing the crash that killed Ancio Ostane, 37, of St. Albans, Queens, a Haitian immigrant who taught mathematics at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn; his son, Andy, 8; and his daughter, Sephora, 4. The three died when their 2005 Toyota burst into flames after being rear-ended by the 2008 BMW driven by Sharpe, State Police said.
The crash occurred in Bay Shore on the westbound Southern State Parkway at Exit 41S, Bay Shore Road, near the Robert Moses Causeway interchange, at 1:30 a.m. Sunday, not long after Ostane, his wife and children left a Saturday barbecue in nearby Central Islip.
Lucnie Bouaz-Ostane, a blood-bank technician at Interfaith Medical Center in Brooklyn and Brooklyn Hospital Center, was taken to Southside Hospital in Bay Shore and was later released. She was uninjured.
State Police said Sunday that Sharpe plowed into the victims' car from behind, pushing it from the main traffic lanes across a median and into the local lanes at the exit, where it ignited.
Brosco told the arraignment judge: "He hit the vehicle with such force that the vehicle was forced over the median," and added that Sharpe fled without bothering to help the three trapped family members.
Ostane and his children died at the scene.
Sharpe was arrested by State Police at 5:14 a.m. at his mother's house in Rockville Centre, according to prosecutors and court documents.
A breath test taken about 5:45 a.m. registered Sharpe's blood-alcohol level at 0.06 percent, according to court papers. Blood test results are pending.
After the arraignment, John Scott Prudenti, bureau chief of the Vehicular Crimes Unit in the district attorney's office, said: "More than four hours after this horrific crash where a family was, in fact, burned in their car . . . this defendant was found outside his family's home in Nassau County while his car was left at the scene."
Prudenti declined to comment when asked if anyone else was in the vehicle with Sharpe. When asked if more arrests are expected, he said "at this time our investigation is focused around this defendant here and his conduct that evening."
Prudenti said a preliminary investigation showed that before the crash Sharpe was at a barbecue with friends and "there was drinking involved."
Harry Tilis, Sharpe's attorney, argued that there is insufficient proof against his client and also objected to his temporary license suspension pending prosecution.
"There is nothing," Tilis told the court, "in the felony complaint that says Mr. Sharpe has any knowledge of the accident or was driving."
But Prudenti countered: "The evidence in this particular case -- our investigation -- does, in fact, put him at the scene."
He also argued Sharpe was arrested hours after the crash "without having any accounting of what would've happened in those four hours."
More than a dozen friends and relatives of Sharpe attended the arraignment. All refused to comment.
Ostane's family could not be reached for comment Monday. A statement from Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn, where Ostane was an adjunct mathematics professor, called the deaths a "tragic loss."
With Sarah Armaghan
and John Valenti