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Cops: Driver Was a Tragedy Waiting To Happen

May 3, 1994

NEW YORK (AP) _ Abraham Meyers and his car, it seemed, were a drunken driving tragedy waiting to happen.

Meyers, 55, with three arrests for driving while intoxicated and numerous suspensions, had lost his license. But on Sunday, police said, he drank himself into a stupor and got behind the wheel again.

By the time his journey ended, the bodies of almost an entire family were strewn in the middle of the street. A mother and her two daughters were dead. The family’s father was hurt.

Meyers sat in his car, oblivious to the horror, police said.

″It appeared he didn’t know what was going on,″ said Officer Maureen Murray. ″He didn’t even know I was a cop.″

Meyers, a hospital janitor, was charged with murder, manslaughter, drunken driving and driving without a license. If convicted, he faces life in prison, said Richard Brown, Queens County district attorney.

He was arraigned Monday and held without bail.

According to police, Meyers was arrested on drunken driving charges in 1964, 1971 and 1978, but convicted only in the 1964 case. His license has been suspended 22 times, mainly for failing to respond to summonses.

Cathy Vaccarello, 47, and her daughter, Maria, 18, a Brooklyn College student, died at the accident scene.

Vaccarello’s other daughter, Concetta, 17, a high school senior, died in a hospital early Monday.

Her father, Giovanni Vaccarello, 51, was hospitalized with back and leg injuries.

The only other surviving family member, a 12-year-old son, was not hit.

″You wonder why these things happen,″ said Mary Bologna, a neighbor. ″What kind of an animal was driving that car?″

The Vaccarellos were a respected part of a close-knit Italian-American neighborhood in the city’s borough of Brooklyn.

Neighbors described the children as cheerful and polite. Maria worked part- time at a pharmacy and wanted to be a doctor.

″They just were hard-working people who never hurt anybody. It was really an ideal family,″ said Gloria Settecase, a neighbor.

On Sunday night, the family joined relatives at a catering hall to celebrate the 25th wedding anniversary of Giovanni Vaccarello’s brother and sister-in-law. The party broke up shortly before midnight.

As a small crowd milled in front of the hall, the family began to walk cross the street. Suddenly, a 1982 Lincoln Continental - with its headlights off and traveling an estimated 70 mph in a 40 mph zone - ran a red light and plowed through the group, police said.

The driver later told investigators he had had a few beers while watching a basketball game on TV. Police said his blood-alcohol level was 0.23 percent, more than double the legal limit for intoxication.

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