Police: Driver in fatal crash didn’t have valid license

The driver charged in connection to an accident that killed a Valley Stream seventh-grader yesterday did not have a valid license, according to authorities. Zachary Ranftle, 12, was struck and killed

News 12 Staff

Dec 13, 2014, 3:09 AM

Updated 3,456 days ago

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Police: Driver in fatal crash didn’t have valid license
The driver charged in connection to an accident that killed a Valley Stream seventh-grader yesterday did not have a valid license, according to authorities.
Zachary Ranftle, 12, was struck and killed while crossing West Merrick Road to get to Memorial Junior High School in Valley Stream. Police say the car that hit the boy was driven by 29-year old Austin Soldano, of Seaford.
Police charged Soldano with operating his vehicle repeatedly without a valid license. His attorney claims Soldano wasn't aware that his license had expired.
Court records show a number of road violations for Soldano. He was stopped in 2010 for DWI and disorderly conduct, in 2011 for driving without a license, and last year for reckless driving and fleeing a police officer. Then, in August, he was stopped for DWI and resisting arrest.
Driving safety expert Marge Lee says a loophole in the DWI laws may have allowed Soldano to avoid installing an interlock device on his car, thus escaping much harsher punishment for drunken driving in the past.
"So if someone is convicted of drunk driving and they simply say to the court, 'I'm not going to drive,' that's enough good cause that they don't have to get that interlock device. And who doesn't believe they're driving? Because I don't believe for a second they're not driving." 
Lee has called on the state Senate to close the DWI loophole, but it's been rejected twice by the state Assembly.
Soldano pleaded not guilty and was released on $5,000 cash bail. He will appear in court again Monday.
Meanwhile, family members like Zachary Ranftle's grandmother, are inconsolable over his death.
"I can't believe he's gone," says Evelyn Ranftle. "I want him back."


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