First responders at the scene of the accident on Hempstead...

First responders at the scene of the accident on Hempstead Turnpike in West Hempstead Monday morning in which a 6-year-old girl was killed and four others injured. Credit: Lou Minutoli

A Freeport man was speeding, driving without a license and had a blood alcohol level more than double the legal limit when he struck another vehicle in West Hempstead early Monday morning, killing a 6-year-old and injuring four others, Nassau County prosecutors said Tuesday during his hospital bedside arraignment.

Jorge Bonilla Gutierrez, 18, sat in a hospital gown on the 18th floor of Nassau University Medical Center in East Meadow on Tuesday handcuffed to the bed with his legs shaking as he was arraigned on charges of second-degree manslaughter, second-degree vehicular manslaughter, second-degree assault, three counts of third-degree assault and driving while intoxicated.

District Court Judge Douglas Lerose held Gutierrez without bail, citing the seriousness of the charges and that the defendant was convicted of a traffic violation for a vehicular crash three months ago — again while driving without a license. Prosecutors had been asking the court to set bail at $500,000 cash or $1 million bond.

“It shows a complete and utter disregard for the rules of the road,” Lerose said. “Therefore remand is what’s being ordered.”

Janel Rottkamp, Gutierrez’s attorney with the Legal Aid Society of Nassau County, said her client works in a shop as a mechanic and is the primary caregiver for his girlfriend and their 4-month-old child.

“My client has had no prior contact with the criminal justice system, no prior arrests or failure to appear,” Rottkamp said, asking the court to set a lower bail amount.

Gutierrez was behind the wheel of a 2005 Nissan Pathfinder on the eastbound Hempstead Turnpike at 2:22 a.m. Monday when he tried to beat a red light at the intersection of Westminster Road. He lost control of his vehicle, striking a 2009 Toyota Corolla parked on the roadside with its flashers activated, prosecutors said. The Corolla had pulled over to inspect a carpet that had been left on the side of the road, according to charging documents.

The crash killed 6-year-old Katerine Vanegas-Hernandez of West Hempstead just days before her seventh birthday and injured her 5-year-old sister, their father, 24, who had been driving and sustained six broken ribs in the crash, their mother, 26, who suffered bruises, and the woman’s 17-year-old niece, Assistant District Attorney Katie Zizza said.

The impact crushed the rear driver’s side of the Corolla with such force that the sedan was pushed off the roadway and onto a sidewalk where it collided with a tree and the victim’s mother, who was outside the car.

“Police smelled the odor of an alcoholic beverage on the defendant’s breath and observed Modelo beer cans inside of and next to the defendant’s vehicle,” Zizza said.

Yudy Argueta, of Souderton, Pennsylvania, a family friend of Lorena Hernandez, the mother of the 6-year-old who was killed, said in a brief interview in Spanish that she set up a GoFundMe to help Hernandez, who remains hospitalized.

She said Hernandez immigrated to the United States two years ago with her kids after leaving El Salvador.

“She was just starting to live her life,” Argueta said of the little girl. “I think she had her seventh birthday today. She came to this country two years ago. She was starting school. She was very healthy.”

“Nobody ever expected such tragic news. We can understand and somehow prepare for a natural death, but when it’s accidental, it’s very traumatic.”

According to prosecutors, Gutierrez’s blood alcohol level, tested at the scene, was 0.18% — more than double the legal limit of 0.08%. He also submitted to a chemical test of his blood.

Gutierrez told police that the parked Corolla crashed into his Pathfinder.

“I had finished work and went to drop off my cousin in West Hempstead,” he told detectives, according to charging documents. “I only had two beers and they crash into me. I was under the limit to drive.”

Gutierrez is due back in court on Thursday.

With Lorena Mongelli

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