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4 Dead After Car Plunges Into NYC Creek: Police

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    NEWSLETTERS

    A car packed with five young friends who were leaving a birthday party in Queens Friday night hit a curb and flipped into a creek, trapping and killing four passengers, authorities said. Michael George reports.

    A car packed with five young friends who were leaving a birthday party in Queens Friday night hit a curb and flipped into a creek, trapping and killing four passengers, authorities said.

    The driver escaped serious injury and called 911, telling responding officers that the passengers were trapped in the underwater car, the NYPD said in a statement.

    The 20-year-old driver, who was in stable condition, said he and his four passengers had left a party nearby when his car hopped the curb on a dead-end street in Astoria and plunged into Steinway Creek, off the East River, at around 10:35 p.m.

    Divers from the FDNY had to break the car's windows to pull out the two men and two women who were trapped, officials said. The women and one of the men were pronounced dead at Elmhurst General Hospital, and the other man was pronounced dead at Mount Sinai Hospital.

    The four who died were all from East Elmhurst and between the ages of 19 and 21: Darius Fletcher, Jada Monique Butts, Crystal Gravely and Jaleel Furtado.

    Several of the victims' family members visited the scene Saturday morning. The sobbing stepmother of one was comforted by police.

    Police did not immediately identify the driver.

    Police said early Saturday the investigation was continuing but that the driver had been given and passed a breathalyzer test. The roads were also wet Friday night, and investigators are looking into whether that may have caused the accident.

    Police visited a car service business that has security cameras trained in the direction the car would have been going in hopes of learning the vehicle's speed in the seconds before it crashed.

    The deaths shook residents of East Elmhurst, the working-class neighborhood of brick row houses where all four victims lived within two blocks of each other.
     
    Susan Martinez, who lives across the street from the home of Crystal Gravely, said the four longtime friends had gone out to celebrate what would have been Gravely's 20th birthday Saturday.
     
    "They were all friends and they went to church and they all had jobs," Martinez said. "That's how they grew up."
     
    Martinez watched as Gravely's father stepped out of his house and walked slowly to the backyard without speaking to anyone.
     
    "He hasn't taken it in yet--that his only child will never be back," Martinez said.
     
    Hairdresser Sheila Ortiz said both of the young women got their hair done at her salon, and she had known them since they were little girls.
     
    "Those kids were very happy," Ortiz said. "They were nice young kids, not troublemakers."

    --Sheldon Dutes and Michael George contributed reporting