A man and a woman were killed, and a 3-year-old girl was left fighting for her life after a chain-reaction crash late Tuesday on the Wantagh State Parkway — a tragedy triggered by a minor fender-bender, police said Wednesday.
The victims were out of their cars — and on the darkened roadway — when they were struck about 11 p.m. by cars not involved in the initial accident on the southbound parkway near the East Meadow-Levittown border, between the exits for Hempstead Turnpike and the Southern State Parkway, state police said.
Reina Olivera, 33, of West Babylon, and Nicholas Ramirez, 61, of Lindenhurst, who each were in separate vehicles, were killed, police said. Olivera’s daughter, whom she was holding, was in critical but stable condition early Wednesday at Nassau University Medical Center in East Meadow. The child’s condition was not available Wednesday night.
Earlier in the day, Olivera’s relatives gathered at the hospital, hoping for the best.
“We’re sad. You don’t expect things like this to happen,” said Richard Castillo, 37, Olivera’s housemate in West Babylon.
Castillo said Olivera, who is married, was returning from visiting her in-laws in Brentwood when the crash occurred. Her husband, Castillo said, is “heartbroken.”
State Police said Olivera’s Nissan Murano sport-utility vehicle, heading south on Wantagh in the left, rear-ended a Honda CRV SUV also in the southbound left lane. That vehicle was driven by Ana Ramirez, 50, of Lindenhurst, police said, the wife of victim Nicholas Ramirez, police said.
The two vehicles stopped in the left lane and Nicholas Ramirez and Olivera got out of their vehicles to exchange information — Olivera holding her daughter, whose name has not been released.
Police said a Toyota Corolla driven by Michael Martino, 42, of Wantagh, came upon the scene and tried to avoid a collision with the initial vehicles. But, as Martino slowed, police said, his Corolla was rear-ended by a fourth vehicle — a Honda Accord driven by Marbin Velasquez, 20, of Baldwin. The force of that collision pushed the Toyota into the southbound right hand lane of the Wantagh — missing the vehicles and the pedestrians in the roadway, police said.
But the Accord continued forward, striking both Nicholas Ramirez and Olivera, who was still holding her daughter.
The impact sent Ramirez over the median and into the northbound lanes, where police said he was struck by a northbound Jeep Wrangler driven by James Maney, 48, of Woodbury. Ramirez was pronounced dead at the scene, police said.
Olivera and her daughter were both transported to NUMC, where Olivera died a short time later, State Police said.
“She was a caring person, outgoing, always happy. . . . that’s why we’re all sad,” Castillo said.
Police said no one has been charged in the crash. The investigation remains ongoing.
Any witnesses should contact police at 631-756-3300.
With Darran Simon