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Cops: Driver on drugs slams into vehicle in Lynbrook, kills two

A serious, multiple-vehicle accident shut down Sunrise Highway

A serious, multiple-vehicle accident shut down Sunrise Highway in Lynbrook in both directions on Monday evening, Jan. 12, 2015. Credit: Lou Minutoli

A driver who police said was high on drugs killed a man and woman in a vehicle he struck during a high-speed crash that shut down Sunrise Highway in Lynbrook on Monday night.

John Aniano, 25, of Lynbrook was tentatively set to be arraigned Wednesday on charges that include manslaughter, vehicular manslaughter and driving while ability impaired by drugs or alcohol.

Killed in the crash were Sharon Rene Long, 53, of Lynbrook, and John Jones, 54, of Lynbrook.

Nassau County police said Tuesday Aniano was going west in a Mercedes-Benz when he smashed into the rear of a 2005 Toyota near Forest Avenue just before 8:15 p.m. Monday, sending it careening into the eastbound lanes, where it hit the driver's side of a third car.

Aniano's vehicle continued about 150 feet down the road and stopped just east of Atlantic Avenue, Lynbrook police Inspector Ronald Fleury said.

Long, the front-seat passenger in the 2005 Toyota, was pronounced dead at the scene, Nassau police said. Jones, the driver, was pronounced dead at South Nassau Communities Hospital in Oceanside, police said.

Tuesday night at the basement apartment Jones and Long shared, family and friends stopped by to pay their respects and mourn their loved ones, but declined to comment.

Aniano's father, also named John Aniano, said Tuesday evening his son, who lives with him in Freeport, was diagnosed with bipolar disorder several years ago and "apparently he had an episode" that might have been caused by an incorrect dosage of medicine.

"He's got a heart of gold," said the father, 58, who has a masonry business in Island Park. "When he finds out what happened . . . he's going to be so distressed and so distraught."

He said of police allegations that his son was driving while impaired: "They're spinning this as being some sort of drug-induced rampage -- it's absurd."

He said his son has a broken ankle and fractured vertebrae, but neither he nor his attorney has been permitted to see him.

"They won't let me see him; they won't let my attorney," the father said. "I know it's a horrific accident. I can't tell you how devastated he's going to be."

Defense attorney Joseph Lee of Long Beach said he's been kept by both Nassau police and the district attorney's office from seeing his client.

"This defendant's status is no different in a hospital room than if he was in a holding cell awaiting arraignment," Paul Leonard, a district attorney's office spokesman, said in an email. "He is in custody and will have access to an attorney once he is arraigned on charges."

The police department did not return a message seeking comment Tuesday evening about the attorney's claim.

The accident scene shook and puzzled employees of Sunrise Highway businesses.

At the Lynbrook Diner, on Sunrise and Atlantic Avenue, patrons ran out, said manager Peter Lafkas.

"I heard a loud noise -- it sounded like an earthquake," he said. "I didn't see anything, but I felt it."

At Lynbrook Wine and Liquor, just east of Atlantic, the store owner heard a screech and crash, then ran out also, thinking her parked car had been hit.

On Sunrise, she saw two damaged cars, one on each side of the concrete barriers on the median.

The eastbound vehicle "was so heavily damaged that I couldn't figure out whether it was the back end or the front end," said the owner, who declined to give her full name.

Aniano was being treated for leg injuries, police said.

The third car's driver, a 67-year-old man, was taken to a hospital, police said.

Detectives said Aniano "was observed" to be under the influence of drugs and that two bottles of prescription drugs were found in the car. The names of the drugs were not available, a police spokesman said.

Aniano, of 14D Roxy Place, is tentatively scheduled to be arraigned Wednesday at South Nassau Communities Hospital on two counts of second-degree manslaughter, two counts of second-degree vehicular manslaughter and second-degree driving while ability impaired by drugs and alcohol.

His Mercedes and the 2005 Toyota were impounded for brake and safety inspections. The third car was released at the scene. Police said the investigation is ongoing.

With Zachary R. Dowdy

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