Driver responsible for Blanche Olmo’s fatal hit-and-run during an Uber ride on Van Wyck Expressway surrenders to NYPD

Semone Douglass faces charges including involuntary manslaughter for a fatal 2021 crash involving Uber driver Blanche Olmo.
  1. Semone Douglass surrenders to NYPD two years after causing a fatal Uber accident on Van Wyck Expressway in Queens.
  2. Douglass faces multiple charges, including involuntary manslaughter, and could serve up to 15 years if convicted.
  3. Authorities continue to grapple with traffic accidents amidst a failing “Vision Zero” plan and rising cyclist fatalities.

Semone Douglass, following a two-year lapse since a deadly crash on the Van Wyck Expressway in Queens, NYC, turned herself in to the NYPD yesterday. The crash resulted in the unfortunate demise of 77-year-old Blanche Olmo, who was en route to JFK Airport via Uber, intending to visit her son in Florida.

According to the details shared by the Daily News, Douglass made her surrender at the 113th District NYPD precinct in South Jamaica. Following her arraignment, she found herself in Queens Supreme Court, facing charges of involuntary manslaughter, criminal negligence, assault, and reckless driving. “I can’t believe this woman is turning herself in,” said Michael Olmo, 60, the victim’s nephew.

In addition to these, Douglass also faces charges of speeding and fleeing the scene of the accident, according to a statement from Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz. Despite these charges, Douglass pleaded “not guilty.” If convicted, she could potentially serve up to 15 years in prison.

The NYPD believes that Douglass was driving a BMW X6 and was involved in a hit-and-run incident at approximately 3:20 a.m. on August 1, 2021. She reportedly rear-ended a Nissan Altima being operated as an Uber service on the Van Wyck Expressway near 116th Avenue at the border of South Jamaica and South Ozone Park. The BMW subsequently hit a Toyota Camry before jumping over a guardrail onto the freeway service road.

First responders arrived at the scene to find Douglass in the driver’s seat of the BMW. However, she managed to switch to a Mercedes that had stopped at the scene. An attempt by the Mercedes driver to take Douglass away from the scene was thwarted by emergency vehicles. Nevertheless, Douglass managed to escape on foot.

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The impact of the crash resulted in the hospitalization of a 38-year-old Uber driver and a 40-year-old man driving the Toyota Camry at Jamaica Hospital. The former sustained serious injuries. Law enforcement sources suspect that Douglass was partaking in a car race when the incident occurred, but they have yet to substantiate this claim with sufficient evidence.

In a similar incident, Melissa Rodriguez Lopez was charged earlier this week for causing a fatal crash with an Uber vehicle during an illegal car race in Queens in May. She fled the scene before falsely reporting her vehicle as stolen.

The surge in traffic accidents, along with gun violence, is posing a significant challenge for Mayor Eric Adams. The existing “Vision Zero” safety plan, initiated in 2014 by former Mayor Bill de Blasio with the aim of achieving zero fatalities by 2024, seems to be faltering. NYPD data indicates a 260% increase in cyclist fatalities in the first half of 2023 and a 325% increase since the implementation of the Vision Zero plan.

New York authorities continue to stress that there will be no leniency for drivers who speed or operate vehicles under the influence of alcohol or drugs.