NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Police continue to investigate a tragic Independence Day crash that devastated two Staten Island families.
New Jersey State Police said 54-year-old Dimitrious Iliopoulos was driving the family SUV northbound on the Garden State Parkway in Middletown just after 5 a.m. Monday, returning from an all-night gambling trip to Atlantic City, when he lost control and hit the guardrail.
The vehicle, with seven people inside, flipped at least twice. Five passengers were ejected in the crash.
Weather conditions at the time of the crash were not ideal: it was foggy. Iliopoulous survived, along with his wife, Stavroula, and their 20-year-old daughter Fotiny — both of whom were seriously injured in the crash. Stavroula underwent major surgery Tuesday at Jersey Shore University Medical Center and remains in critical condition.
His two sons, 13-year-old Chrystoph, 18-year-old Hlias, and their friend, 15-year-old Eric Colligan were all ejected from the vehicle and did not survive.
“They’re just great kids, and they all played together, and it’s very heartbreaking to think they’re not here anymore,” friend Danielle Callan said.
“Normal family going out for a holiday weekend, it’s such a tragedy,” said family friend Manny Rivera.
Fotiny Iliopoulous and her fiancé, 25-year-old Vincent Whiteaker, who was sitting in the front seat, were treated and released. Whiteaker said a black BMW sped by, cut them off and forced their SUV to swerve.
“I really don’t know what’s going to happen. Not like we can just go on with our lives and that’s it. It’s just…two seconds that changed everybody’s life,” Whiteaker told CBS 2′s Tony Aiello in an exclusive broadcast interview.
Whiteaker said he continues to be haunted by the sight of the victims thrown from the vehicle and worries about telling his fiancé that her brothers and their friend are dead.
“When she learns about it, she’s going to be devastated, and there’s no doubt about that,” he said.
“I think the worst thing to happen to a father or a mother is to lose their kids. The worst thing,” said family friend Demetri Gorgoiopoulos.
“He followed in my footsteps,” Eric’s uncle, Brian Colligan, said. “He loved having catch with me. I loved him to death.”
“I’m a proud uncle. That’s what I am right now. A proud uncle. Sad, but proud,” he added.
Did you have difficulty driving on the Garden State Parkway this morning? Sound off in our comments section below…