Charges against an off-duty NYPD officer involved in a deadly drunken driving crash over the weekend were elevated to manslaughter after a woman later died in the hospital, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said.
The officer, Neville Smith, 32, was driving his 2010 Mercedes-Benz south on the Van Wyck Expressway near Rockaway Boulevard in Queens when he rear-ended a 2004 Honda, carrying two passengers and a driver at about 4 a.m. on Sunday, police said.
The impact caused the Honda to crash into a tree and light pole, according to officials. The Honda driver, identified as Vanessa Raghubar, 22, from Elmont, as well as her 21-year-old sister, Maria Raghubar, and the third passenger, Justin Harriharran, 20, sustained traumatic injuries and were taken to Jamaica Hospital Medical Center.
Vanessa Raghubar succumbed to her injuries on Monday, authorities said. Maria Raghubar was being treated for a fractured left arm, fractured hip and trauma to her internal organs, Brown’s office said. Harriharran is recovering from a concussion and several abrasions.
Smith was arrested at the scene at about 6:14 a.m. after police said he showed signs of being drunk and was initially charged with vehicular assault, DWI and refusal to take a breath test, according to officials. In the wake of Raghubar’s death, charges were upgraded to manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide, vehicular assault, assault and DWI, the district attorney’s office said.
“Drinking and then driving is a deadly combination. The defendant — a police officer bound to enforce the law — is now accused of breaking the law and with deadly consequences,” Brown said in a statement Wednesday.
Smith was arraigned Wednesday on the upgraded charges and bail was set at $300,000 bond or $250,000 cash. He is due back in court on May 11.
If convicted on all charges, he faces up to seven years in prison, per the district attorney’s office.
Smith, who is assigned to the detective borough in the Bronx, was suspended without pay, police said. He has five years on the job.
A request for comment from Smith’s attorney was not immediately return.