Jurors watched cell phone videos Tuesday of a ferocious fire consuming a small sport utility vehicle — and the father and two children trapped inside — after it was hit from behind on the Southern State Parkway in Bay Shore.
The videos, taken by witnesses to the aftermath of the July 12, 2015 crash, were played in Central Islip during the trial of Oniel Sharpe Jr., 25, a maintenance worker from Springfield Gardens, Queens. He is charged with aggravated vehicular homicide and other crimes in the deaths of Ancio Ostane, 37, and his children, Andy, 8, and Sephora, 4, all of St. Albans.
In one video, taken by Rushane White-Coleman of Jamaica moments after the crash near Exit 41S, the Ostane SUV is barely visible in flames that reached more than twice the Toyota RAV4’s height.
“There’s people in that car!” a bystander yelled. A loud pop and a spurt of flame from the inferno startled witnesses. The only survivor from the Toyota was Lucnie Bouaz-Ostane, wife and mother of the victims.
White-Coleman testified that he was a passenger in a BMW 328i driven by his friend, Sheon Richards. He and other friends were coming from a pool party in Brentwood, as was Sharpe and some of his friends.
During questioning by Assistant District Attorney Maggie Bopp before state Supreme Court Justice Fernando Camacho, White-Coleman said Richards was driving 70 to 80 mph on the Southern State when he heard an explosion from just behind the car. Richards, who was later charged with reckless endangerment for his driving that night, turned around and returned to the fire, White-Coleman said.
Prosecutors say Sharpe was racing after Richards in his mother’s BMW X5 when he plowed into the back of the Ostanes’ Toyota. They say Sharpe was drunk and that he quickly left the scene in a friend’s car before police arrived.
Sharpe’s attorney, Jonathan Manley of Hauppauge, has said the evidence of his client’s intoxication is dubious and he left only because friends in his car were injured and needed medical attention.
A friend of White-Coleman and Richards, Kristopher Archer of Queens Village, testified that he came upon the scene shortly afterward. During questioning by Assistant District Attorney Patricia Brosco, Archer said he recognized Sharpe at the trial, but didn’t approach him because he didn’t know him well. Archer said he did not see Sharpe drinking.
Moments before the crash, Archer said Richards’ car took off into the distance and then he was passed by the X5, which he estimated was doing 85 mph or more. He said he saw neither vehicle weaving in and out of traffic.
“After a while, we’d seen, like, an explosion,” Archer said. He took video of the fire and saw Sharpe standing by his wrecked X5.
In Archer’s video, Sharpe can be seen taking things out of the X5. At one point on the video he throws a bottle into the woods. Police later found a partially empty bottle of Patrón tequila. Archer, who wore a shirt with the word “Obey” across the front, often told Brosco he did not remember details of what happened that night.
During cross-examination by Manley, Archer said he also saw Sharpe helping someone who seemed to be injured, lying on the ground. He said he wasn’t racing anyone that night and couldn’t — his car had a bad vibration above 65 mph.