NORTH AMITYVILLE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — A search was under way late Wednesday for a man who fled the scene of a fatal crash on Long Island, after plowing a stolen vehicle into another motorist.
CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff spoke with the victim’s heartbroken family.
“A daughter lost her father today, and a mother lost a son, and brothers lost their brother, so it is a tragedy,” said Philippe Celifie, the brother of victim Reggie Ceilifie.
The Celifie family was devastated after the 32-year-old auto mechanic was killed Tuesday night at the intersection of Brefni Street and Geraldine Avenue in North Amityville.
Police said the sport-utility vehicle that crashed into his car was stolen and the driver fled — leaving Reggie Celifie to die.
“At least he could have stood there,” said Katie Johnson, a cousin of the victim’s. “You know, he probably could have still been with us if he would have gotten help enough help on time.”
Witnesses said the SUV was speeding through a stop sign.
“He went so fast,” said witness Krystal Ojeda. “It was an accident when you knew he was going to be killed instantly.”
Ojeda’s husband stopped to help, and didn’t see the driver run off.
“He didn’t pay attention about the driver. He paid attention about what was going on; if (the victim) was OK – he was checking his pulse,” Ojeda said.
Nearby residents were on edge as police searched for the suspect, described as a black male about 20 years old standing 5 feet 7 to 5 feet 8 inches tall with a slim build. He was clean-shaven, and was wearing jeans, a black hooded sweat shirt, and a wool hat, police said.
“They had the roads taped off all around. There were police officers all walking around the streets looking,” said neighbor Pat Horan. “And I said, ‘Somebody – somebody ran away from this terrible, terrible accident.’”
The police search turned up empty just two miles away. Celifie’s mother had been waiting for his son to take her out for dinner.
“He didn’t have much and he was grateful for everything; grateful just to be with his family,” Philippe Celifie said. “He made money… came over to take my mom out, and 8 o’clock came and my mom was like, ‘Oh I guess he fell asleep.’”
Regge Celifie’s family late Wednesday had a plea to the hit and run driver.
“Who does that?” Johnson said. “You know, we need you to come forward and say something.”
Police said the SUV -– a Chevrolet Trailblazer — was reported stolen on Dec. 8. The driver quickly ditched the vehicle in an act the Celifie family called inhumane.
Prosecutors on Long Island continue to fight for stiffer penalties for leaving the scene of a fatal crash. They are seeking to double the penalty from seven to 15 years.