Popular Bazzini manager killed in crash


By Albert Amateau

The death in a brutal hit-and-run accident on Jan. 10 of Peter Hornbeck, 26, bakery manager of Bazzini gourmet outlet in Tribeca, left fellow employees and neighbors deeply saddened this week.

Hornbeck, who started at Bazzini three years ago at the soda fountain where he became a neighborhood favorite, was struck at 11:45 p.m. Saturday near his apartment while crossing Park Ave. at E. 96th St. with friends. His body was dragged for a block and the driver, Gurpreet Oberoi, 26, of Queens, ditched the car few blocks away and then took a bus to Atlantic City for a gambling spree, according to police.

Oberoi returned to New York on Sunday and surrendered to police who charged him with leaving the scene of a fatal accident, unauthorized use of a vehicle and driving with a suspended license. Police said the green S.U.V. that Oberoi was driving had been reported stolen in October by his father.

Hornbeck, a native of Watertown, N.Y., was planning to attend Hunter College for a master’s degree in education. He intended to become a teacher like his father, Bruce, and his mother, Nancy, according to Micah Damato, a manager at Bazzini.

“He was a quick learner and developed the soda fountain into a favorite neighborhood place. Kids had crushes on him and followed him around,” Damato said. “We knew he wasn’t going to stay here much longer and that he wanted to teach but we were happy to have him with us.”

Bazzini’s employees set up a memorial table to Hornbeck on Sunday with red roses and white lilies. Funeral arrangements were made in Watertown.

Police said two friends of Oberoi were passengers in the van and fled when he abandoned it at E. 100th St. and Lexington Ave. The friends, however, notified police after Oberoi had phoned them from Atlantic City urging them to bring him cash and his passport. The friends persuaded Oberoi to return and surrender to police. The suspect’s license had been suspended four times for speeding, failing to pay fines and failing to respond to summonses, police said.