BROOKHAVEN, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — A wrong-way crash on the Sunrise Highway on Long Island killed two people celebrating a birthday early Sunday, and left a third in critical condition.
The response to the wreck led to another accident that hurt a police officer.
According to police, a white2004 Infiniti sedan was driving eastbound in the westbound lane near Exit 57 on Sunrise Highway in Brookhaven when it struck a 2001 Chrysler van at around 4 a.m.
The driver of the Infiniti — Kevin Melgar, 23, of Brentwood — was pronounced dead on the scene, authorities said. The driver of the van, Ozcan Ayyidiz, 49, of Mastic Beach, was pronounced dead at Brookhaven Memorial Hospital.
Jonathan Valladares, 25, who was Melgar’s cousin and a passenger in the Infiniti, was taken to Brookhaven Memorial Hospital Medical Center in Patchogue in critical condition.
As CBS2’s Dave Carlin reported, Melgar worked as a driver in for his father’s commercial trucking business. He died driving his personal car.
“I was crying the whole day; mourning with my family,” said the victim’s brother, Justin Melgar. “It’s his birthday, like, we didn’t want this to happen on his birthday.”
Melgar and Valladares were celebrating Melgar’s birthday when their car crashed into Ayyidiz’s van. Police said Ayyidiz was in the correct lanes and likely had little to no reaction time.
As 1010 WINS’ Carol D’Auria reported, Ayyidiz was a Turkish immigrant who was living the American dream. Friends and family members gathered at his home in Mastic Beach, all completely in shock.
A family friend said when Ayyidiz was killed, he was driving to work to his job. He operated a wholesale flower business.
“Wherever he went, he took flowers with him – to his neighbors, to his friends, to strangers. He always brought flowers for his wife,” the woman said.
He was married with three daughters and the owner of a wholesale flower business.
Ayyidiz and his wife had three daughters. Neighbors in Mastic Beach remembered him as kind and generous.
“At the end of the day, he would bring us flowers,” said Rose Siragusa. “I’m numb right now, because I can’t believe it’s him.”
In the hospital, Valladares was yet unable late Sunday to talk to investigators about why Melgar’s car was going the wrong way.
Hours after the fatal crash, there was a second, non-fatal one in the very spot.
During the crash investigation, police said a a 2014 Isuzu street sweeper operator drove beyond where the road was closed off, striking two police vehicles.
Authorities told CBS2 that an officer was injured in the incident at 7:20 a.m.
The officer, a four-year veteran of the Suffolk County Police Department, was airlifted to Stony Brook University Hospital in Stony Brook with non-life-threatening injuries, authorities said.
The truck driver, Robert Cook, 36, of Levittown, was not injured.
Noise from the helicopter that airlifted the officer for medical attention jolted some neighbors awake. They said more signs are needed on Sunrise Highway.
“Saying, ‘One way, wrong way, do not come this way,’ because some of the traffic on the service roads is two-way traffic, some of it is not, so that’s very confusing if you don’t live around here,” said neighbor Darlene Chanda.
The crash shut down parts of Sunrise Highway for hours, WCBS 880’s Myles Miller reported. The closed-off lanes later reopened.
Motor Carrier Safety Section officers issued several violations after investigating the street sweeper.