A Mastic man released from prison just three months ago was arrested and charged with drunken driving after a crash Monday in East Patchogue that killed his grandfather and injured two other passengers, one critically, police said Tuesday.
Gary Hendricks, 45, driving with a suspended license, was at the wheel of a 1999 Suburban going west on Sunrise Highway, east of Route 112, at about 5:15 p.m. when he struck the back of a 1997 GMC pickup, police said.
The Suburban, carrying three passengers, "went onto the shoulder, up an embankment and overturned several times," Suffolk police said in a news release.
The SUV landed upright on the right shoulder, said Thomas Volpe, second assistant chief at the North Patchogue Fire Department.
"The passenger side of the car and the roof was caved in," he said. Firefighters had to cut open the SUV to rescue two passengers, he said.
Hendricks' grandfather, Isaac Beal, 77, was ejected from the Suburban's backseat, police said.
He was pronounced dead at the scene, near the North Patchogue border.
Family members described Beal as a loving grandfather and caring husband. His granddaughter, Paula Brown, of Bellport, said he worked as a handyman to pay for a nursing home for his wife, who has fallen ill.
Brown said she last saw Beal two weeks ago, riding his bike around Patchogue, but she didn't get a chance to talk to him. "And now he's gone," she said.
The other backseat passenger, Donald Fowler, 62, of West Babylon, was taken by Suffolk County police helicopter to Stony Brook University Hospital, where he was in critical condition, police said.
Front seat passenger Tina Downes, 47, of Medford, was taken with nonlife-threatening injuries to Brookhaven Memorial Hospital Medical Center in East Patchogue, police said.
The occupants of the GMC pickup, driver Jonnathan Penaranda, 21, of Patchogue, and his unidentified passenger were not injured.
Hendricks was charged Tuesday with first-degree aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle and driving while intoxicated, police said.
He was convicted of driving while intoxicated in 1996.
In 1997, he was charged with driving while impaired by alcohol but pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor forgery charge.
Hendricks served four and a half years for drug possession, larceny, credit card theft, breaking and entering and car theft in a two-year crime spree that began in 2008 and spanned five counties in North Carolina, according to the North Carolina department of public safety.
As of Tuesday afternoon, Hendricks was still in the hospital, so his arraignment has not been scheduled, police said.
The accident remains under investigation. Anyone with information is urged to anonymously call Crime Stoppers at 800-220-TIPS.
With Ellen Yan