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Controversy Surrounding L.I. DWI Stop That Ended With Fatal Crash

Melissa Maher (credit: CBS 2)

Melissa Maher (credit: CBS 2)

YAPHANK, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – A Long Island mother is dead and her 6-year-old daughter was critically injured after the woman tried to evade police following a controversial DWI stop.

Now, the family of 36-year-old Melissa Maher wants answers about what happened in the moments before the fatal crash.

“[If] PD is not chasing her, how would she perish?” Maher’s stepfather, Robert Miller, asked.

Police said there was no chase.

Suffolk County Police Captain Dennis Sullivan observed Maher driving erratically and pulled her over.

Maher was asked to prepare for a field sobriety test after the captain smelled alcohol on her breath, police said.

As the captain called for backup, Maher panicked, reportedly worried about the reaction of her ex-husband, jumped back in her Honda and sped away, CBS 2’s Jennifer McLogan reported.

The captain said he tried to contain her in the neighborhood without a dangerous pursuit.

“He did follow her to the cul-de-sac, but the captain’s account was that he positioned his car to prevent her from leaving out of the cul-de-sac. To some observers, it might appear as a pursuit,” Suffolk County Police Lt. Edward Reilly told McLogan.

Maher’s car was broadsided by a pickup truck when she ran a stop sign.

Police said the Brookhaven woman was killed on impact. Her daughter, Mia, was rushed to the hospital with critical head injuries.

“They’re trying to keep it hush-hush,” Miller told McLogan.

Witnesses of the incident have different accounts of what happened leading up to the crash.

“The cop shouldn’t feel guilty because he was doing his job. But at the same time, she was just being disorderly,” witness Daryl Seabrooks told McLogan.

“Siren and the flashers were going on…he pursued her here, yes,” added Yaphank resident Raymond Desir.

The little girl was secured in a car seat in the back. The captain said he had no reason to place the child in his vehicle because he did not expect Maher would drive off.

The girl is being treated at Stony Brook University Medical Center, according to the family.

Suffolk Police said protocol differs in each DWI stop.

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