Woman's 6-Mile Wrong-Way Drive Ends in Death: DA

Queens woman charged with second-degree manslaughter in I-95 crash

Tuesday, Jul 26, 2011  |  Updated 2:33 PM EDT
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Woman's 6-Mile Wrong-Way Drive Ends in Death: DA

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A New York woman drove drunk in the wrong direction for more than six miles on Interstate 95 before causing a collision that killed a man, prosecutors alleged Tuesday.

Tanisha Gomez, 26, of Queens was charged with second-degree manslaughter in a complaint filed Monday in New Rochelle City Court, the Westchester County district attorney's office said. Spokeswoman Tracy Everson said the complaint alleged Gomez was "in an intoxicated condition" when her minivan collided with a car before dawn Sunday.

Reginald Lee, 29, of East Orange, N.J., a passenger in the car, was killed. Mark Toppin, 29, of Elizabeth, N.J., the driver, was in fair condition Tuesday at Jacobi Medical Center in the Bronx, said hospital spokeswoman Barbara DeIorio.

Gomez, who was taken to Jacobi after the crash, was upgraded Tuesday from serious to fair condition, DeIorio said. The district attorney's office said Gomez had not been arraigned. State police said a trooper was at the hospital.

Gomez's lawyer, Salvatore Paszynsky, said by email that Gomez would plead not guilty at arraignment. He said she has a clean driving record and has never before been arrested. He noted that no blood test results have been made public and "speculation as to the cause of the accident is premature."

The district attorney's office said alcohol and drug tests were pending.

The announcement of the complaint came on the second anniversary of a similar crash that killed eight people on the Taconic Parkway, about 12 miles from Sunday's crash. The driver in that wrong-way crash, Diane Schuler of West Babylon, was killed along with four children in the minivan she was driving and three men in a car she hit.

Investigators determined that Schuler was intoxicated and had been smoking marijuana. A documentary about that case aired Monday night on HBO.

Police said Gomez was driving north in the southbound lanes of the interstate before dawn when her Chevrolet minivan collided with a Nissan Sentra heading south in New Rochelle.

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