Nassau County police said that the five car collision took place at 1:40 AM in Lawrence on the Nassau Expressway between Burnside Avenue and Peninsula Boulevards, with one of the vehicles involved bursting into flames.
The vehicle’s two occupants, who were identified as Elisheva Kaplan of Far Rockaway and Yisroel Levin of Brooklyn, perished in the flames.
Among the five who were taken to area hospitals were two motorists who were charged with drunk driving, reported Newsday (https://nwsdy.li/2El7SnL).
Both sustained serious injuries and are not expected to be arraigned for several days according to Detective Lieutenant Richard LeBrun of the Nassau County Police Department.
LeBrun said that both vehicles that caused the collision were traveling in the same direction at the time of the accident. At least one crossed the grassy median and into the oncoming lanes of traffic, with one of the cars going over a guardrail.
A light rain was falling at the time of the fatal crash and police are investigating whether road conditions or excessive speed played a role in the accident.
The Nassau Expressway is known to be a popular spot for drag racing and in one incident reported in August 2016 a police officer was injured by a driver going over 100 miles per hour on the highway according to the New York Post (https://nyp.st/2q6PZUF).
Nassau Expressway remained closed until 7 PM Wednesday night as police combed the accident scene, which included an usually large debris field that was more than 700 feet long.
LeBrun said that numerous rescue crews and firefighters arrived on scene to help the victims, but were unable to free the young couple.
“They did what they could,” said LeBrun.
The death of the choson and kallah who got engaged just before Pesach, left many in the Jewish community broken hearted and a joint funeral will be held at Yeshiva Darchei Torah at 11 AM Thursday morning.
Kaplan, a graduate of Torah Academy for Girls, will be buried on Long Island, while Yisroel Levin’s body will be flown to Israel for burial after Pesach.
Darchei Torah has also undertaken a campaign to learn all of Shas over the next month in memory of the young couple.
A friend of Levin’s who spoke to VIN News on condition of anonymity remembered his infectious warmth and unique ability to gladden the hearts of everyone around him.
“I can definitely tell you that wherever Yisroel was, you could be sure the people around him had huge smiles on their faces,” said the friend. “He was caring to everyone and loved learning and avodas Hashem. He was just an amazing guy.”
A co-worker of Kaplan’s who also asked to remain anonymous said that he couple had planned to marry at the end of June and intended to relocate to Israel at the end of the summer.
He said that while everyone in the Five Towns office knew about the accident because of the traffic and saw that Kaplan hadn’t come in and wasn’t answering her phone, no one connected the two incidents.
“I got the message from someone and went to check online and saw the picture,” said the co-worker. “I didn’t believe it at first. All day they were talking about the accident but we assumed no one Jewish had died because no one was saying anything and usually the Jewish news spreads quickly.”
He recalled Kaplan’s maturity, joyous personality and how her mere presence could light up the room.
“She was the nicest person,” said the co-worker. “She could deal with even the most difficult person in a positive way.”