Nassau police charged an 18-year-old woman with DWI and manslaughter Tuesday after the van she was driving crashed into a house in Hempstead, killing a woman on the front lawn, officials said.

The victim had been outside by a lawn mower when at approximately 9:45 a.m., the van, which was traveling south on Cathedral Avenue, driven by a young woman, 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 would not release the identity of the victim, who was 69 years old, until the family had been notified, Smith said.

Police identified the van driver as Kayla Gerdes, 18, of Meister Boulevard, Freeport. She 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.

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

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

The circumstances surrounding the crash and the relationship between Gerdes and a male passenger in the van remained unclear as officers continued their investigation, he said.

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

Neighbor Robin Gran, 55, recalled of the victim: "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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