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L.I. drunk driver admits killing Astoria woman

A 25-year-old Long Island man admitted last week to driving drunk and crashing into a livery cab at the intersection of 34th Street and 31st Avenue in November, killing a 30-year-old Cypriot from Astoria as well as the cab’s driver, the Queens district attorney said.

Daryush Omar, who lives in Plainview, L.I., pleaded guilty Aug. 19 to vehicular manslaughter before Queens Supreme Court Justice Lenora Gerald, who indicated she would likely give him a sentence of 3 1/2 to 10 1/2 years in prison at his sentencing Sept. 9, Queens DA Richard Brown said.

“When an individual drives under the influence of alcohol, his vehicle ceases to be a means of transportation and instead becomes a deadly weapon capable of inflicting great bodily harm not just to the driver, but to all who cross his path,” the DA said.

Omar, who was born in Pakistan, has also been charged with second-degree murder and robbery but not indicted in the 2006 death of New Jersey’s Thomas Whitney Jr., who was fatally beaten outside a Chelsea bar, a spokeswoman for Manhattan DA Robert Morgenthau said. The investigation of Whitney’s death is ongoing. Omar’s next Manhattan court date will be March 11, the spokeswoman said.

Last week, the defendant admitted to driving his Range Rover drunk at more than 45 miles per hour around 3:10 a.m. Nov. 16, the DA said. He blew through a red light at the intersection of 34th Street and 31st Avenue in Astoria, colliding with a livery cab driven by Brooklyn’s Bessy Velasquez, 41, and carrying passenger Panayiota Demetriou, 30, who lived on 34th Street in Astoria.

Both women suffered massive body trauma and were taken to Mt. Sinai Queens Hospital, where they were pronounced dead, Brown said.

Demetriou had been studying for a graduate degree in child psychology at Pace University and had worked as an emergency room psychiatrist at Brookdale University & Medical Center in Brooklyn.

The victim’s family lives in Cyprus, but will return to the borough for Omar’s sentencing, said Effie Delimarkos Fletcher, a friend of Demetriou’s from Astoria. Demetriou’s parents and brothers will give testimony to convince the judge to give Omar the maximum sentence.

“It’s been very difficult for [Demetriou’s] family and friends,” Delimarkos Fletcher said. “The plea offers some solace that he is admitting guilt. We see him as a murderer and we want to see that justice is done.”

The defendant will be deported after serving his sentence, a Queens DA spokeswoman said.

At the time of his arrest, Omar admitted he had two drinks and a Breathalyzer test found his blood alcohol content was at twice the legal limit, the DA said.

Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e-mail at nduke@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.

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