East Elmhurst, Queens – April 4, 2014 – By Mike Leventhal, Staff Writer:
The car, carrying young three men and two women on their way home from a birthday celebration, crashed into the water off 19th Avenue near 37th Street in Astoria, NYPD officials said. The 20 year-old driver managed to get out of the car, swam to the shore and called 911. All four victims, who lived in the same East Elmhurst neighborhood, have now been identified.
Police investigators examined the car in which Darius Fletcher, 21, Jada Monique Butts, 19, Crystal Gravely, 19, and Jaleel Furtado, 20, all died.
Instead of a birthday party for Ms. Gravely, four families were left to make funeral plans after the freak Friday night crash as the driver of the 2009 Honda Accord, 20-year-old Andrew Gramm, sped along a rain-slicked road – not realizing he would hit a dead end sign until it was too late.
Police say Gramm was traveling at a speed not appropriate for the conditions – He didn’t know it was a dead end until the last minute. When he realized it, he tried to make a turn. He then started to skid sideways, according to the detective on site.
The four college students died when the vehicle plunged into the thick and muddy Queens creek, trapping them underwater for more than 30 minutes.
Feurtado was a four-year basketball player at Monsignor McClancy Memorial High School, while Fletcher was a senior studying public health at William Paterson University in Wayne, N.J.