A drunken driver crashed his car early morning Oct. 13 on a New York City highway, then allegedly fled the burning vehicle leaving the passenger to die as he hailed a taxi to go to a hospital, police say.
Harleen Grewal, an Indian American resident of Astoria, New York, was pronounced dead at the scene after firefighters found her deeply-charred body on the passenger side of the vehicle. The 25-year-old woman, who worked at the clothing brand BCBG Max Azaria, was trapped inside the burning vehicle, according to local media reports.
Grewal’s friend, Saeed Ahmad, 23, was driving his Infiniti 35G erratically and hit a concrete barrier, upon which the car instantly burst into flames. Ahmad suffered burns to his arms and his legs and was taken by taxi to nearby Maimonides Hospital. Police arrested Ahmad at the hospital and charged him with manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide, leaving the scene of a fatal accident, speeding, and driving with a suspended license.
Ahmad, who had been weaving in and out of traffic before he crashed, told police he had been drinking, but tested below the legal blood alcohol level limit. He and Grewal were not dating, as reported by several media outlets. Grewal’s boyfriend, Karan Singh Dhillon, told reporters that he and Harleen had just celebrated their two-year anniversary.
Dhillon characterized Grewal as an “angel” who would go out of her way to help others. “She would do anything for people. She would give someone the clothes off her back. She would give someone food and go hungry,” Dhillon told the New York Daily News. “She made me a better person. She was an angel. She had an impact on whoever she touched,” he added.
Dhillon also said he was not angry with Ahmad, and said he has forgiven the reckless driver.
Meanwhile, Ahmad’s brother, Waheed Ahmad, also has spoken out, saying Saeed Ahmad did not abandon Grewal. “He did not just run away from the scene. He lost his phone in the car [and was] unable to call the ambulance. He tried to get her out,” Waheed Ahmad told the New York Daily News.
“That’s how his hands and his legs and his neck got burned. He couldn’t get her out. The fire got too crazy. It just burned so quick. Everything is chaos right now. We are shocked. It’s horrifying for the girl and her family.”
“He’s emotionally distraught. Every time they ask him about what happened, he’s crying and screaming. His friend burned alive,” Waheed Ahmad added.
Grewal graduated from Manhattan Center for Science and Mathematics in 2010, according to her Facebook profile.