A Massapequa man who killed his friend in a crash last spring while driving after using drugs apologized Friday before hearing his prison sentence, saying he couldn’t help thinking how the victim’s mother never got to say goodbye to her son.
“I truly am very sorry for causing this to happen. It has affected more lives than I can count,” Michael Bantel, 28, told a Mineola judge.
Authorities said the May 5, 2015, crash ended the life of Bantel’s passenger, Anthony Sylvia, 28, of East Meadow, after Bantel’s vehicle crossed into oncoming traffic on Sunrise Highway in Massapequa.
“I think of his mom and how she can’t say goodbye to him because of what I’ve done,” Bantel said, adding: “I cannot change the past — as much as I want to. . . . There’s no way I could ever make this right.”
State Supreme Court Justice Angelo Delligatti then sentenced Bantel to 3 to 9 years in prison following the man’s previous guilty plea to charges of manslaughter, vehicular manslaughter, driving while impaired by drugs and third-degree assault.
Assistant District Attorney Katie Zizza had asked for a 4- to 12-year prison sentence, but also told the judge that “no amount of time” would bring Sylvia back.
Bantel’s Nissan Maxima hit a Ford pickup head-on after crossing the Sunrise Highway median at 4:45 on that morning, according to authorities.
The pickup’s driver, Jenny DeRonde, 38, of Lindenhurst, was at Bantel’s sentencing Friday and said outside the courtroom she believed she survived the crash because she was driving a friend’s truck instead of her own car.
The Long Island Rail Road ticket agent said she’d been heading to work, and then just “saw headlights” before the impact, which left her with herniated disks in her back.
“I’ll never forget this. It’s something that I live with every day,” said DeRonde, who is still doing physical therapy.
As court officers later led Bantel away in handcuffs, he again expressed remorse.
“He’s a good man. He had a really bad night,” said his Manhattan defense attorney, Dan Ollen. “He was addicted to drugs and alcohol and he is as remorseful a client as I’ve ever seen, frankly.”
But Nassau Executive Assistant District Attorney Maureen McCormick said that while she was grateful Bantel was seeking substance-abuse treatment behind bars, his lesson came too late for both DeRonde and Sylvia.
“He trusted his friend to get him home safely and it didn’t happen,” McCormick said of Sylvia.