Dramatic confession, apology in deadly LI van crash

April 21, 2010 2:42:10 PM PDT
A young woman on Long Island faces manslaughter and drug charges after she lost control of the van she was driving, ran over a woman and slammed into a house in Hempstead Tuesday. This was a freak and tragic crash that stunned a community.

Police say 18-year-old Kayla Gerdes has no driver's license and was speeding when she lost control of the van on Cathedral Avenue and killed 69-year-old Rebecca Twine Wright. And what happened as Gerdes was taken from court Wednesday left seasoned members of the working press at a loss for words. Gerdes offered a dramatic confession and apology.

"Leave me alone, leave me alone," Gerdes said Wednesday. "It was a mistake. The car...I'm so sorry. It was a mistake. I didn't mean to do it."

She may be sorry now, but detectives say Gerdes was also high on oxycodone while behind the wheel of the van.

"It was an accident," she said. "Please leave me alone. It was a mistake.'

She somehow lost control, jumped the curb and slammed into Wright, who was mowing her yard on a beautiful spring day. She wound up in the van's path and died instantly.

"A tragic, tragic crash," Nassau County Detective Sergeant John DeMartinez said. "We cannot establish that it was anything other than the reckless operation of the van at this point. A tragic crash."

"The car went out of control," Gerdes said. "I was pressing the brake and it wouldn't go. It was a mistake. I'm sorry."

Police haven't figured out how fast Gerdes was driving, but they say she was over the speed limit to have caused the amount of damage she did to the house. Authorities say Gerdes admitted to them that she was late for a court appearance on a past criminal case, but they have not been able to verify that she was due in court.

Gerdes was arraigned on several charges, including manslaughter, vehicular manslaughter, DWI and unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle.