Brooklyn man, woman plead not guilty in crash that killed young couple

Posted: Updated:
MINEOLA -

A Brooklyn woman was arraigned Thursday on charges that she caused a five-car pileup that killed two people and injured seven more on the Nassau Expressway in Lawrence.

Zakiyyah Steward, 25, pleaded not guilty to charges of DWI and being under the influence of drugs.

Outside court, Steward's father claimed the crash was the victim's fault.

"The people who got killed, from what I heard, was the ones that initiated that accident. My car was totaled and if my daughter didn't take drastic actions to move out of the way, she would have been caught in that,” said Ntchwaidumela Bui.

He also insisted that she was not drinking.

Another driver involved in the crash, Rahmel Watkins, 35, was also arraigned at his bedside Thursday at South Nassau Communities Hospital. He pleaded not guilty to a DWI charge.

An attorney for Watkins says his client denies consuming any alcohol and is “trying to come to terms with what happened.”

Meanwhile, a funeral was held in Far Rockaway Thursday for a young engaged couple, Yisroel Levin, 21, of Brooklyn, and Elisheva Basya Kaplan, 20, of Far Rockaway, who died in the crash.

According to police, their car burst into flames after being hit between Burnside Avenue and Peninsula Boulevard.

The couple got engaged just a week ago and were supposed to get married in three months.

Steward was already set to be sentenced on felony burglary charges Friday. She was placed on $25,000 bond. Her family says they will not be able to post bond.

Charges against both Steward and Watkins could be upgraded.

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