Speed, Rain Probed as Possible Causes in Deadly Queens Car Plunge

Speed and rain were being investigated as possible factors in the deadly crash of a car into a Queens creek that left four young people dead, police said Sunday.
Investigators were still trying to determine the cause of Friday's accident, which sent a car with five people inside of it tumbling into a creek on a dead-end street in Queens.

The only survivor was the 20-year-old driver, who escaped from the submerged car with minor injuries and called 911.
His four friends were trapped at the bottom of Steinway Creek, a trash- and waste-strewn inlet off the East River.
Police said the driver had tried to make a quick U-turn as he suddenly faced the dead end late Friday evening, amid rain and fog. Instead, the 2009 Honda Accord slipped on the wet road and he lost control of the vehicle that flipped into the water, police said.

On Saturday, police visited a car service business that had security cameras facing the street in hopes of learning the speed of the Accord in the seconds before it crashed.
Fire department divers pulled the four victims from the car late Friday evening, within a half hour of the accident.
The five friends were returning from a birthday celebration for Crystal Gravely, who died along with Darius Fletcher, 21; Jada Monique Butts, 19; and Jaleel Furtado, who was 20.

They all lived with a couple blocks of each other in East Elmhurst and had gone out to celebrate Gravely's 20th birthday, which was on Saturday, according to friends and neighbors.

A small memorial appeared at the crash site over the weekend, along with concrete barriers and reflective cones that were installed only after the crash, neighbors and family members say. Along with several "End" or "Dead End" signs on the street, they're apparently meant to warn drivers about the creek on the other side of the dead-end road. 

Omar Laidlaw, the brother-in-law of Darius Fletcher, said: "These blocks here, these cones. Not even a cone, when I came up here that night, there was nothing here." 

Laidlaw said that without those warnings, it could be easy for a driver to assume the street goes on. 

"You could think it's a straight road. There's no lights over here and at night, it's foggy. So you won't realize until you're up on it and then say, 'I gotta turn back around.'"

The DOT said the "highly visible" end signs were in place at the time of the crash, though the jersey barriers and barrels were installed Saturday afternoon. A spokesman said the department is reviewing conditions at similar streets ending near water.

Police say 20-year-old driver Andrew Grimm may have tried to make a U-turn before he lost control. His grandfather told NBC 4 New York Sunday that Gramm was back home from the hospital. 

"Under the circumstances, he's doing pretty good," said Gus Stuckey, Gramm's grandfather. 

He said that Gramm "remembers a little bit of what happened" but did not elaborate on what may have caused the crash.

-- Brynn Gingras contributed to this report. 

Copyright AP - Associated Press
Contact Us