MIDDLE ISLAND, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – The families of a Long Island couple – and the teen who fatally crashed into them with a stolen car – are speaking about the tragedy as an entire community has been left in mourning.
Wearing the jersey of his dad’s favorite team, the only son of victims Jerome and Randee Weingarten told CBS2 their family deeply loved and respected the retired grandparents.
Thirty miles away in Bellport, the Belford family is grieving as well.
“We’re saddened for the loss of both families,” a member of the Belfords said to CBS2’s Jennifer McLogan.
It was their son fleeing from police just before midnight on Saturday after failing to stop at a Yaphank intersection. The vehicle, which officers later discovered to be stolen by the teen, was also observed swerving down the road.
“The officer, who believed the driver was under the influence because he failed to maintain his lane of travel, attempted to pull over the vehicle but the driver refused to stop,” Suffolk County Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart said Sunday.
A patrol officer tried to pull him over, but a five-mile pursuit quickly began, from Main Street in Yaphank to Route 25 Middle Country Road in Middle Island.
Seventeen-year-old Nahriek Belford lived through the crash, but his 19-year-old stepbrother was killed along with the Weingartens.
The couple was returning home from a dinner engagement.
The Belfords said their son has never been in trouble with the law and suggested he panicked.
“Had to be going at a high rate of speed. I think there’s a time when police might want to give up the chase to protect the people who are innocent,” local resident John McGuire argued.
“We will do a thorough and detailed investigation to ensure that protocol was adhered to in this instance and that will be handled internally by our internal affairs,” Commissioner Hart said.
Web Extra: Suffolk County Police On Chase That Ended In Fatal Crash
The crash comes one year after another fatal collision in Ridge that involved a driver fleeing Suffolk police. That crash killed five people and the case is still pending in state court.
There was apparently no dash cam video in either of these deadly police pursuit cases.
“The detectives are looking at video from the area, we’re going to look at speed, we’re going to look at time of day, weather conditions, the supervisor’s contact with the officer,” Hart added.
Investigators say Belford was driving an SUV stolen from an East Patchogue shopping center. The owner had left the car’s motor running and the license plates had been switched.
Many neighbors in the close-knit community plan to attend the Weingarten’s funeral scheduled for Wednesday morning in Dix Hills.
The couple recently celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary.