STONY POINT, N.Y. – A 34-year-old architect was charged Friday with helping his wife commit suicide by stepping aside as she drove the family minivan down a 300-foot cliff with their two daughters inside.
Both children survived, but Victor Han's 35-year-old wife, Heijin, died in the crash Wednesday night at Bear Mountain State Park, 40 miles north of New York City.
Han was charged with promoting a suicide attempt and reckless endangerment, both felonies, and endangering the welfare of a child, a misdemeanor. His bail was set at $75,000 cash or $100,000 bond, court clerk Diane Quinn said.
Police said the family had stopped at a scenic overlook in the state park about 5:30 p.m. Wednesday. Han got out of the minivan, and his wife "put the vehicle in drive and locked the doors," park police Col. James Warwick said.
The vehicle then rolled over the cliff, tumbling down the mountainside into the trees and rocks below, police said. The couple's 3- and 5-year-old daughters suffered minor injuries, police said.
Police said they believe Victor Han left the car knowing that his wife was suicidal, and that she had earlier threatened to harm herself and their daughters. He "afforded her an opportunity for her to carry out her intentions," police said in a statement.
However, The Journal News in White Plains reported on its Web site Friday that Han signed a statement for investigators claiming that the family went to Bear Mountain to take photos after their daughter's preschool graduation. Although he was worried about her state of mind, "I felt she would not kill herself in front of anyone," Han reportedly said.
The New York Daily News said Han told investigators he tried to grab the minivan's bumper as it headed for the cliff but could not stop it.
Han appeared in court Friday without an attorney. He was being held at the Rockland County jail pending another hearing Tuesday in Stony Point.
In the tree-lined Staten Island neighborhood where the family lived, neighbors were in disbelief.
"They're a fabulous family," said Kim Barbagallo, who lives across the street. She said her husband and Victor Han recently rebuilt the Barbagallos' home. The two families' four young children also played together.
"They were always together as a family," she said.