Thursday, June 25, 2009

Scary Welcome for French Tourists in New York City

After a long haul trans Atlantic flight or a 15 hours non stop flight, the least thing you want to happen to you on arrival is a car chase with the local police.

Well that happened exactly to 5 French tourists upon arrival in New York.

Five French tourists got a harrowing start to their New York visit: a wild police chase.

– Ester-Ethy Mamane, left, and her mother Claudie Mamane speak to reporters during a during a news conference …

As they looked for a ride at the Air France terminal at John F. Kennedy International Airport on Tuesday morning, the visitors were lured to a van that was not licensed to provide taxi service, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey spokesman John Kelly said.

Plainclothes police recognized the man who enticed the tourists, Ian McFarland, as a repeat offender previously arrested for corralling passengers into unlicensed cars.

A Port Authority officer reached inside the van to try and grab the keys, but the driver, Khaalif Preacher, sped off with the tourists inside, knocking the officer to the ground, Kelly said.

Port Authority police sped after the van, which snaked through residential streets and traveled about seven miles through two boroughs before it crashed through a gate at a U.S. Postal Service facility in the East New York section of Brooklyn.

The tourists said they screamed and prayed during the chase.

"I was scared," Paris resident Esther-Ethy Mamane, 26, said.

Mamane and her mother, Claudie, traveled to New York to attend a religious seminar.

She said she tried to keep the other passengers inside the van calm during the chaos.

Preacher and McFarland jumped out while the van was still moving.

Mamane said there was smoke and the rear doors wouldn't open from the inside, so she jumped out the front as the van rolled and ran around to open the doors.

Mamane's mother tried to jump from the van, fell and the vehicle rolled over her arm. She was treated at a hospital and released. Mamane and the other passengers, a woman and her parents, were not injured.

Meanwhile, police chased the two suspects on foot and arrested them. They were awaiting arraignment Wednesday on charges of second-degree assault, second-degree assault on an officer, reckless endangerment, resisting arrest and unlawful solicitation of ground transportation services, the Queens district attorney's office said. It wasn't clear whether they had attorneys.

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