Hearing Provides Answers For Victim's Family
More than two years after a deadly accident in Breezy Point took the life of an 18-yearold pedestrian, an Administrative Law Judge for the Department of Motor Vehicles has concluded that the motorists lied about who was operating the vehicle at the time of the accident.
The accident occurred when O'Donnell sped down Rockaway Point Boulevard, passed Beach 201 Street at 2:30 a.m. on Sunday, March 13, 2005, and struck J.R. McDermott, who eventually died at Peninsula Hospital Center.
Administrative Law Judge Marc Berger found, based on the evidence and testimony given, that O'Donnell was the motorist who struck and killed McDermott. Therefore, Diaz is not at fault for McDermott's death, but has had her license revoked for lying to authorities on the original accident report.
The judge also concluded that O'Donnell's actions contributed considerably to what happened that night. O'Donnell was found to be speeding in a 30 mile-perhour zone when he struck McDermott. This alone, according to the report, warrants action against O'Donnell's driving privileges. In addition, the disciplinary actions against him include not filing the proper accident report with DMV within the ten-day timeframe.
In the original police report, McDermott was cited as being partially at fault for the accident due to "pedestrian error." However, Diaz, who claimed to police that she was driving the car, was issued a speeding summons for going 44 miles per hour through Rockaway Point Boulevard's 30 mile-per-hour zone. The witnesses at the scene placed O'Donnell as the driver of the car, which led to further investigation and the subsequent hearing.
The witnesses, several of McDermott's friends, ran immediately to McDermott's aid and realized that the driver was O'Donnell, not Diaz; all testified to that extent at the hearing.
The judge's findings have satisfied McDermott's father, John Paden, and he is optimistic that this will refuel the investigation into what really happened that night.
"I am very satisfied," Paden said. "The judge was the first person who said anything about this - what they did is fraud."
Paden doesn't plan on stopping here, and hopes that the report will put additional pressure on the District Attorney to investigate further and consider potential criminal charges against Diaz and O'Donnell.
"There is fraud involved here," Paden said. "I hope this serves as ammunition for the DA to take a look at what happened."
For the time being, though, O'Donnell was only ordered by the judge to file the appropriate accident report and surrender his license, until further notice by the State of New York.
Rockaway Point Boulevard has been the scene of other pedestrian fatalities in the past. Since the accident, the speed limit has been lowered, from 30 miles per hour to 25 miles per hour, in hopes that drivers will slow down and drive more cautiously.
At the time of his death, McDermott was a recent graduate of St. Edmund's Preparatory School, a volunteer with the Roxbury Volunteer Fire Department, and a first responder to the Flight 587 plane crash.