Queens police followed a trail of antifreeze that led them to the home of a suspected drunk driver alleged to have mowed down a Chinese food deliveryman on April 19.
On Saturday night, April 18, You Yuan Zhou, 43, was heading to his last delivery for the China House Restaurant at about 11:45 p.m., traveling west on Jamaica Avenue near 80th Street, when a Volkswagen Jetta slammed into the rear of his Yamaha scooter, police said.
The impact knocked Zhou’s helmet from his head, and his scooter was dragged for almost a block by the Volkswagen until the driver, Gus Pappaeliou, 27, hit the brakes and put the Volkswagen into reverse to shake the scooter loose, police said.
Zhou died a short while later at the scene.
The accident occurred about one block from the Woodhaven restaurant where Zhou was working overtime to pay the mortgage on his family home in Elmhurst, restaurant employees said. Zhou, a married father of two, came to the U.S. about 10 years ago. In addition to working extra hours to make his mortgage payments, Zhou was sending money to his parents in China.
An eyewitness who spotted the license plate of the Jetta called 911, giving cops a lead to the identity of the driver. Another onlooker showed police a crumpled metal object in the street that turned out to be a hood ornament torn from the Volkswagen by the impact.
Police said the driver sped from the scene without realizing the impact had damaged the car’s radiator. A trail of antifreeze left on a four-block stretch of road led to 76th Street in Woodhaven, where Queens Highway cops found the Jetta, parked behind a fence at Pappaeliou’s home. Police impounded the Jetta and knocked on the door of the home, where they found Pappaeliou among his relatives.
Pappaeliou surrendered to the Highway police, who charged him with manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide, leaving the scene of an accident, driving with a suspended license and drunk driving. Pappaeliou was held in lieu of $30,000 bail at his arraignment at Queens Criminal Court.
Eyewitnesses told police Zhou never knew what happened. “They said there was a loud ‘boom’, the helmet flew into the street and the car was dragging the scooter down the street,” police sources said. “Eyewitnesses said the guy in the car hit his brakes and jammed the car into reverse to knock the scooter off. The guy just peeled off without even looking to see if the man on the scooter was O.K.”