Nassau police arrested a 18-year-old woman Tuesday after the van she was driving crashed into a house in Hempstead, killing a woman who had been on the front lawn, officials said.

The driver, Kayla Gerdes, of Meister Boulevard, Freeport, was arrested and charged with second-degree manslaughter, second-degree vehicular manslaughter, driving while under the influence of drugs and unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle.

The victim had been outside by a lawn mower when at approximately 9:45 a.m., the van, which had been traveling south on Cathedral Avenue carrying the young woman and a man, veered to the left, jumped the double yellow traffic line and curb of the home, and struck her, Nassau Det. Lt. Kevin Smith said. No one else was home at the time.

The van, its roof rack laden with ladders, came to rest between the home's front porch and its living room, trapping the victim underneath it. Police did not release the identity of the victim, who was 69 years old, until the family had been notified, Smith said.

Sophia Atias, who lived several doors down from the scene of the crash, said she was in her kitchen when she heard a loud "boom." She said she ran outside and saw a young woman running down Cathedral Avenue "screaming, and yelling hysterically." Atias said a man was chasing the young girl seemingly trying to calm her.

"I think it's horrible," she said. "It's extremely sad to see someone's life taken like that."

Smith said officers were consulting with the Nassau district attorney's office to determine how to charge the woman. The man in the van was still being questioned, Smith said.

The circumstances surrounding the crash and the relationship between the man and woman in the van remained unclear as officers continued their investigation, he said.

Smith said it was "more than likely" that excessive speed was involved.

Robin Gran, 55, an accountant who lives one house away from the scene, recalled the victim as someone who often did her own landscaping.

"I saw her all the time doing her own lawn work," she said. "She loved gardening . . . My thoughts are that she died doing what she loved."

With John Valenti

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