LAWRENCE, NY- According to forward.com, one of the drivers involved in a chain-reaction car crash that caused the deaths of a newly engaged Orthodox couple has been charged with manslaughter. Thirty-five-year-old Rahmel Watkins from Brooklyn had previously been charged with drunk driving following the accident, but Monday police added two counts of manslaughter to his charges.
The collision occurred on the Nassau Expressway close to JFK International airport at about 1:40 a.m. on April 4, 2018. The recently engaged couple, Elisheva Kaplan and Yisroel Levin, were traveling in a sedan when their vehicle became one of five cars involved in the crash. The couple’s vehicle caught fire claiming both of their lives. Levin, 21, and Kaplan, 20 had gotten engaged just a week prior to the deadly accident.
A driver of another one of the vehicles also bore responsibility for the collision. Zakiyyah Steward, 25, faced four criminal charges for her role in the accident. Steward’s charges include driving under the influence and possession of marijuana. She reportedly had alcohol and drugs in her system when the accident happened. Steward has faced criminal charges in the past as well, including burglary.
Following the tragedy, Justice Mathew Sciarrino expressed remorse for having given Steward “too many chances” when he ruled on her previous case.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), drunk driving causes about one out of every three traffic-related fatalities in the United States. The prevalence of drunk drivers on the road has decreased in recent years, but people are still driving under the influence millions of times a year. In New York state, 1.4% of drivers admit to having driven after having too much to drink within the past 30 days alone.