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Long IslandNassau

Cops: LIE wrong-way driver charged with manslaughter, DWI

One person died early Monday and another was

One person died early Monday and another was injured in a one-car crash in the eastbound lanes of the Long Island Expressway. (Sept. 6, 2010) Photo Credit: Kevin Imm

The driver in a fatal auto accident on the Long Island Expressway Monday was charged with second-degree manslaughter and driving while intoxicated after he went the wrong way in the eastbound HOV lane and crashed into a median, police say.

Juan Cruz, 27, of Deer Park, had minor injuries and was deemed "fit for confinement" and detained overnight, Nassau police homicide squad Det. Gary Ferrucci said.

A woman who answered the phone at Cruz's home declined to comment.

Cruz and his friend Mauricio Visoso-Ornelas, 28, of Corona, were on their way to Queens after a christening when Cruz drove his 2008 Chrysler Town and Country van onto the LIE in the wrong direction, Ferrucci said.

In the minutes leading up to the crash, police received several 911 calls reporting a van heading west in the eastbound high occupancy vehicle lane, he said.

At 4:45 a.m., the blue van struck the median at a spot where the edge of the median was uneven because of the placement of a stanchion, just west of the Sunnyside Boulevard overpass in Plainview. The passenger side of the van was torn off, Ferrucci said.

Visoso-Ornelas had severe injuries to his legs, abdomen and head. He was taken to Nassau University Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead, Ferrucci said.

Efforts to reach Visoso-Ornelas' family were unsuccessful yesterday.

All eastbound lanes between Exits 44 and 46 were closed until about 2:30 p.m.

Cruz, who also faces charges of second-degree vehicular manslaughter and reckless driving, was held Monday night at police headquarters in Mineola, police said.

His arraignment was scheduled for Tuesday at First District Court in Hempstead.

The vehicle was impounded for a brake and safety check.

Ferrucci said police had not determined how or where Cruz had entered the expressway going in the wrong direction.

The outcome could have been far worse had it not been Labor Day, Ferrucci said.

"Remember, it's 5 in the morning on a holiday," Ferrucci said. "There's not much traffic, thank God." With William Murphy

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