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Sentenced in 2011 fatal Wantagh Parkway DWI

Ava Gambardella, daughter of Danny Gambardella, who died

Ava Gambardella, daughter of Danny Gambardella, who died in a fatal 2011 DWI accident, holds her bear next to a photo of her father after Oscar Ramirez was sentenced in Mineola. (July 30, 2012) Credit: Howard Schnapp

A crowd overflowed from a Mineola courtroom Monday morning as a judge sentenced a Brentwood man to 5 to 15 years in prison for driving drunk and killing two men on their way to work last year.

Oscar Ramirez, 30, had pleaded guilty in June to aggravated vehicular homicide, two counts of second-degree manslaughter and driving while intoxicated.

Prosecutors said Ramirez was driving a Ford Windstar minivan north on the Wantagh State Parkway at 4:50 a.m. on April 30, 2011, when he sideswiped a Kia sedan just south of Hempstead Turnpike in East Meadow.

The Kia -- driven by Larry Scuteri, 49, of West Islip, and carrying passenger Daniel Gambardella, 46, of North Babylon -- was pushed onto the east shoulder of the parkway and across the grass. It flew into the air and struck a tree, killing Scuteri and Gambardella instantly, police said.

Ramirez, who did not have a driver's license at the time of the crash, admitted that he drank nine beers that night and, more than two hours after the crash, had a blood-alcohol content of 0.10 percent, prosecutors said. Scuteri and Gambardella, who had been friends for decades, were on their way to Manhattan, where both worked as members of the carpenters union.

Ramirez was represented by the Nassau Legal Aid Society, which does not comment on individual cases.

"Life is unfair when a stranger's choice to drive while intoxicated ends with horrific results that leave me alone to raise my children and leaves my children to have to learn to live the rest of their lives without their father," Linda Gambardella, Daniel's wife, told Acting State Supreme Court Justice William Donnino, referring to her daughter, 8, and son, 17. In the courtroom and crowded outside were dozens of young men whom Gambardella coached in baseball and soccer over the years.

Larry Scuteri's wife, Sandra, told Donnino that she finds some comfort ensconced in her home, which her husband built years ago as a labor of love.

"Since my husband's death, our daughters have attended their proms, graduated from high school and been accepted to exceptional universities," Sandra Scuteri said. "I continuously reassure them that they will fulfill their dreams, fall in love, have families and build lives. Unfortunately, all this will be done without the man who taught them to accomplish all these things."

Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice said she hoped Ramirez's prison sentence would bring some solace to the two men's families.

"The tragic death of these two hardworking family men should never have occurred, but this crash was inevitable the moment Oscar Ramirez made the decision to drive drunk," she said.

Gambardella's uncle, Raymond Herr, of New Jersey, said 5 to 15 years is not enough. "I don't understand how the punishment for killing two people can be the same as for killing one," he said.

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