Michael Minogue: Wrong-way driver was 'big blur coming at me'
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"It was like, 'Boom!' " Minogue recalled.
The auto mechanic said he had just enough time to swerve when a Toyota Camry came barreling along the expressway the wrong way, going east in the westbound HOV lane. Near Exit 61 for Patchogue-Holbrook Road, the car clipped Minogue's vehicle, which rolled over more than once before coming to a stop.
"I just looked up and she was there," Minogue said of the wrong-way driver, Andrea Vazquez, now 51, of Lake Grove.
Authorities said Vazquez was under the influence of drugs at the time of the crash, which happened shortly before 10 a.m. on Feb. 4, 2008. Last year, she pleaded guilty in Suffolk County District Court to charges of driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and reckless driving, a misdemeanor. She was sentenced to 3 years' probation and fined $1,200.
Vazquez did not return phone messages left last week.
That morning, thoughts of the New York Giants' Super Bowl win over the New England Patriots the night before were not far from Minogue's mind as he made his normal journey to work from his East Patchogue home.
Minogue, now 54, said the crash still baffles him.
"I often wonder how did I not see this person coming," he said. "It was like a hill. You don't realize you can't see oncoming traffic."
In the seconds before the collision, Minogue turned his head because cars traveling to his right started swerving - attempting to avoid Vazquez's car, he believes. Suddenly, the Camry was "a big blur coming at me, I couldn't even tell it was a car."
"Hold the phone," he remembers thinking. "Somebody is going to hit me."
The next thing he knew: His SUV was rolling over. Fear gripped him as his Blazer lay disabled in the highway.
Suffolk police - who, in pursuit, had been driving in the expressway's eastbound lanes, parallel to Vazquez - were immediately on the scene, and other emergency responders showed up quickly. Minogue said he crawled out the back of the SUV. He remembers a volunteer firefighter helping him and asking if there was anyone else in the car. There wasn't.
"Thank God for air bags and seat belts," Minogue said. "They definitely saved me. I never felt myself move out of the seat."