Today’s news:

Van parks on boat after wild ride through Howard Beach

A van hangs off of a dock in Howard Beach. Photo by Ellis Kaplan
TimesLedger Newspapers

The driver of an adult day care van was arrested and charged after he drove off the end of a Howard Beach street and landed on top of a boat while fleeing a fender bender on the Belt Parkway Thursday, police said.

Vadim Azarov, 41, of 5th Street in Brooklyn was charged with reckless endangerment and reckless driving after smashing through the fence near a Howard Beach boat club.

Azarov was racing down Russell Street ahead of a white SUV that, after being sideswiped by the day care driver, began following him, police said.

The NYPD received a call around 9 a.m. that a gray van had crashed through a wooden barrier and chain-link fence on Russell Street and landed on top of Frank Argento’s 31-foot boat.

“Stop breaking my chops. I got to go to work,” Argento, who was at the scene, recalled saying when a worker at the Howard Beach Motor Boat Club, at 59 Russell St., called to describe the bizarre scene.

The front of the van was resting on the back of Argento’s boat, which was docked directly at the end of the road. The back of the van was balanced on the seawall amid the shattered fence.

The prelude to the accident began when the driver of the van allegedly sideswiped Tom Cronin, who was on his way to work in the SUV.

Cronin tailed the driver onto Cross Bay Boulevard and then descended into the one-way streets of Howard Beach.

Cronin said he saw the van, which according to police was not carrying any passengers, tear down Russell Street.

“There’s a big dead-end sign at the start of the block. It’s not a secret,” Cronin said. “I waited for him to come back out. He didn’t.”

Cronin was on the phone with police while he followed the driver, he said.

Phil Lynch, commodore of the boat club, was standing on Russell Street and saw the van traveling well over the speed limit and smash through the fence.

“I thought he was going to go over the boat,” he said.

The back wheels of the van were hanging in mid-air between the boat and the seawall, but the driver unsuccessfully tried to go into reverse off the boat and back onto the street, Lynch said.

The driver then climbed out of one of the doors and plunged into the water, swimming over the seawall near the deck of the boat club, where he waited until police arrived.

Police officers and harbor patrol used a crane to lift the van off the boat. It was then towed away.

A person who answered the phone at Queensboro Adult Day Care said the driver was not on duty last Thursday morning.

Argento, a corporate executive from Glendale, had just installed two $20,000 engines on his boat, Sandy Shores, this summer.

When asked what he would do, Argento replied, “drink heavily.”

Robert Gambardella, fleet captain of the club, said the end of the street is city property and he has repeatedly asked for a barrier to be installed.

“If this was summertime, somebody definitely would have been killed,” he said.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at januta@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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