Suspect in deadly van crash in medical ward

April 23, 2010 2:16:48 PM PDT
The teen driver accused of running down and killing a Long Island homeowner while high on pain pills, has been hospitalized. "My heart goes out deeply to the family of this tragedy and to my family as well," Tara Gerdes said.

Gerdes came to court on Friday to support her daughter, Kayla, but the 18 year old never showed up.

She has been admitted to the medical ward at the Nassau County jail, possibly related to her admitted problem with pills.

With Gerdes mother by his side, Kayla's lawyer John Lewis said his client was rushing to family court Tuesday morning to check herself into rehab when, police say, she insisted her boss, Brian Steele, let her drive because he wasn't moving fast enough.

"Ms. Gerdes, and this will come out, spoke to that man prior, earlier in the morning, and told him specifically, 'You do not let my daughter drive that van,'" Lewis explained.

As soon as she took the wheel, Lewis says the teen lost control of the cargo van, and accidently pumped the gas instead of the brakes.

That's when she jumped the curb and slammed into 69-year old retired Dr. Rebecca Twine as she was mowing her lawn.

Police say Gerdes was high on Oxycodone. They've charged her with manslaughter. They did not arrest Steele.

"That's up to the district attorney. That's not up to me, but I do think that he bears a lot of responsibility in this case," Lewis said.

And in that, he has an unlikely ally. Rebecca Twine's son, who says Kayla Gerdes may have been behind the wheel, but she isn't the only person who should pay.

"I want her to be prosecuted to the full extent of the law, but I also want him to be culpable for allowing her to get behind the wheel of his car," he said.