An off-duty Nassau County police detective dubbed a hero by his union leader was killed early Wednesday morning when he tried to drive across Glen Cove Road in Westbury and collided with a U.S. Postal Service tractor-trailer, officials said.
Det. Alfred Samaniego was killed when his sport utility vehicle collided with the tractor-trailer after he exited the Northern State Parkway, police said.
A close family friend described Samaniego, 51, as the "host with the most," remembering him as a fun-loving and family-oriented man who took over backyard barbecues and organized social gatherings with friends, including a weeklong cruise this past summer.
"Everyone's a mess," said Nancy Trujillo of West Islip, who spoke for the family Wednesday. Trujillo's husband and Samaniego graduated from the Nassau Police Academy together in 1986, she said. The two families remained close for nearly 30 years. "It's so unexpected. He was healthy and was with the family all day. You don't expect this."
Samaniego and his wife, Wanda, lived in Elmont with their children. Trujillo said the couple had a daughter, Sofia, 8, and son, Marco, 12, and that Samaniego was heavily involved with his son's football and lacrosse teams. Samaniego, whom friends called "Al," also had a 25-year-old son, Alexander, from a previous marriage.
Friends and family Wednesday gathered on the Samaniegos' front lawn, which was guarded throughout the day by Nassau police officers.
Trujillo said she didn't know where Samaniego was heading or coming from before the crash or what could have caused the accident. She said the family awaits the results of an autopsy and blood work.
Glenn Ciccone, president of the Nassau County Police Department Detectives Association, called Samaniego a "true hero" and "dedicated family man," who was a detective for more than two decades and served as a union board member.
"He was a highly motivated, hard working, and skilled detective who was assigned to the prestigious Special Investigations Squad," Ciccone said in a statement. "His impeccable character exemplified his constant professionalism in policing as well as in his union activities. His dedication to his fellow members and to the residents of Nassau County was unparalleled."
Police are investigating the 12:53 a.m. crash.