Cops yesterday examine the van that smashed through a house several feet from the lawnmower (right) Rebecca Twine Wright was using when she was hit.
An elderly retired Long Island doctor, enjoying a sunny spring day as she mowed her lawn, was killed yesterday when an out-of-control van driven by a drugged-out teenage girl hopped the curb and careened into her before smashing into the victim’s home, police said.
The impact from the horrific crash left pieces of lawn mower on Rebecca Twine Wright’s half-mowed property, according to witnesses.
“We were sitting here and we heard a screech,” said Hempstead neighbor and witness Cathi Efstathios, 42, who works across the street as a secretary at the Cathedral of St. Paul. “It sounded like an explosion.”
The victim’s inconsolable daughter, Nancy Twine, said last night, “She was just a great woman, a really strong woman who cared about me and my brother growing up.”
A gray work van driven by Kayla Gerdes, 18, ripped an enormous hole near the front door of Twine’s two-story brick home, police said.
Gerdes, who was busted last month for shoplifting, was charged with manslaughter, vehicular manslaughter, driving while under the influence of drugs and unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle.
Also inside was the van’s registered owner, Oceanside roofer Brian Steele Jr., 29, said his father Brian Sr. The younger Steele is not expected to be charged, sources said.
“It’s horribly upsetting,” Robin Gran, 55, said of her slain neighbor, a 69-year-old mother of two grown children who held both a Ph.D. and MD.
“I saw her all the time doing her own lawn work. I wondered how she kept it up.
“She died doing what she loved.”
The van was speeding south on Cathedral Avenue at 9:40 a.m. when it hopped the curb and struck Wright, sources said.
It then hit her home with such force that debris was launched from the living room to the back of the house.
“We heard a series of noises and we kind of looked out the window,” said Nicole Rousakos, 42, a secretary at the Cathedral. “[The van] had to really be flying, because we heard the screech and then we saw the van in the house.”
Tire marks marked the street in front of the home, which police said may now be structurally unsound.
Wright, a Diplomate of the American Board of Family Practice and author of a paper on the early detection of colon cancer, was pronounced dead at the scene.
It’s not clear what sparked the crash, although witnesses said Gerdes was ranting when cops tried to slap the cuffs on her.
“She was screaming when they arrested her, ‘Nothing happened. It’s fine,’ ” Efstathios said.
Guillermo San Roman, who lives next door to Wright, had been working on his computer when he heard the impact and saw the van lodged in his neighbor’s living room.
“It was almost inside the house, and two young [people], a boy and a girl, they were very nervous, discussing between them,” said San Roman. “They were in shock.”
At his home in Oceanside, LI, Steele Sr. said his son had known the driver, who claimed to be a model, for a few weeks.
“I don’t know who she is,” the dad said. “He just met her. She doesn’t live here. She says she’s a model.”
About 40 minutes before the crash, Steele Sr. said he had called the police to have the young woman removed from the house he shares with his son. Moments later, she and his son took off in the van as police arrived, Steele Sr. said.
“There’s something wrong with her,” said Steele Sr.