Zakiyyah Steward, 25, and 35-year-old Rahmel Watkins are charged with second-degree manslaughter, assault, reckless driving and reckless endangerment. Steward is additionally charged with vehicular manslaughter, aggravated vehicular homicide, driving under the influence of alcohol and driving under the influence of drugs.
Both defendants pleaded not guilty and said nothing else in court. Watkins was ordered held on $1 million bond for Watkins, while Steward was ordered held on $500,000 bond. They are due back in court on July 18.
Five cars collided in a violent crash on the Nassau Expressway in Inwood just before 2 a.m. that littered the roadway with car parts and battered hunks of metal. The victims -- 21-year-old Yisroel Levin, of Brooklyn, and 20-year-old Elisheva Basya Kaplan, of Far Rockaway -- were trapped in their Nissan Altima, which burst into flames on impact.
They were described as newly engaged. Five others were seriously injured, including the suspects.
Friends and relatives of the young couple streamed sadly from the courthouse, taking the first steps in what they hope will be a long road toward justice.
Prosecutors said Steward and Watkins were friends and were headed to a casino in separate cars when the crash happened.
It is not clear whether either driver caused the chain-reaction crash, but in the days after the accident, Steward's father said the car that contained the two deceased was the one that caused the incident and that his daughter told him their car hit her car before she hit another car before her vehicle went over the guardrail.
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