A student in New York was killed this week after an off-duty NYPD officer who had been driving under the influence collided with her vehicle. The unfortunate twist to this story, however, was that the student was a designated driver when she was killed.
Vanessa Raghubar, 22, was out celebrating her sister, Maria’s 21st birthday with family. Vanessa had turned down a celebratory toast while out because she was the designated driver for her sister and her boyfriend that evening.
Neville Smith, 32, an off-duty NYPD detective at the time, was allegedly under the influence of alcohol and speeding when he rear-ended Raghubar’s vehicle. The collision sent Raghubar’s vehicle across the highway onto a grassy shoulder where it struck a tree and an overhead light pole.
Vanessa died from her injuries while at the hospital. Maria and her boyfriend were hospitalized where Maria had undergone four surgeries for a shattered pelvis, a shredded bladder and a broken arm.
“Vanessa didn’t drink,” Diana Chand, cousin to Vanessa and Maria, said to the New York Post. “She refused because she was driving some of us back. They did blood tests at the hospital after she was hit – it showed she didn’t have a drop.”
Smith told responding officers that he was returning home “from a dinner function for an old co-worker” when the collision occurred.
At the arraignment, prosecutors said that Smith had bloodshot, watery eyes and was slurring his speech when responding officers arrived at the scene. They also alleged that his breath smelled strongly of alcohol and that he refused to take a breath test.
Smith is facing charges of operating under the influence, first degree vehicular assault, assault, refusing to take a breath test, vehicular manslaughter, and criminally negligent homicide. Bail was set at $300,000 and, if convicted, Smith faces seven years in prison.