The five French tourists who became unwilling passengers in a high-speed chase on Tuesday when police tried to bust an unlicensed livery van at JFK are getting a great taste of American instant-celebrity. Yesterday two of the tourists attended a big press conference to publicly thank the officers involved in the incident, which began after undercover Port Authority cops spotted a hustler steering them into the unlicensed van—when one officer tried to grab the keys, the driver sped off with the newly-arrived French visitors trapped inside.
60-year-old Claudie Mamane was injured when she tried to escape the moving vehicle, after the suspects had jumped out in an unsuccessful attempt to run away. (The van rolled over her arm.) She says, "I wasn't scared because I was praying the whole time." The city presented Mamanes and her daughter, in town for a religious seminar, with a gift bag yesterday, including free tickets to the Broadway show Chicago and passes to the Museum of Modern Art.
But where were the other three during the press conference? Giving an exclusive to the Daily News, apparently; reporters for the tabloid say they "escorted" the family from their hotel to Times Square, where 28-year old Gwen Dulugat, whose parents had taken her to New York to celebrate her birthday, called the experience "a horror. Yesterday was like a movie. All the fame is weird. I feel like I'm living some sort of American Dream."
Her father, Jean-Jacques, declared, "This is the greatest city in the world, and I want everyone to know it has the greatest police." He also loves those controversial Times Square lawn chairs, which, since he's French, is really going to make Andrea "chair-hater" Peyser happy. Suspects Khaalif Preacher, 27, and Ian L. McFarlane, 57, were arraigned last night, and the Post reports each was held in lieu of $50,000 bail. The charges against them include unlawful imprisonment, reckless endangerment and assault on a police officer.