An off-duty Suffolk County police officer died early Friday in Commack when his sport-utility vehicle collided with a garbage truck -- another emotional blow to the department's Second Precinct, police said.
Patrick Curley, a father and 17-year police veteran, was pronounced dead at the scene.
The accident, which occurred on a stretch of highway that some residents and business owners say is plagued by crashes, is under investigation.
Two Second Precinct officers have now died in traffic accidents over the past three years. In 2009, Officer Glen Ciano, 45, was killed in Commack after his patrol car was hit by a drunken driver on the Vanderbilt Motor Parkway at Commack Road.
Insp. Edward Brady, the Second Precinct commander, called Curley's death a "terrible loss."
"He was very reliable," Brady said. "He was always there to help the community and do what he could for his fellow officers."
Noel DiGerolamo, president of the Suffolk police officers union, praised Curley as a respected officer and dedicated family man.
"He had a wonderful disposition," DiGerolamo said. "He was kind, always concerned for others, and really just exemplified what police officers are about."
Outside the officer's home Friday, a person who identified himself as a friend of the Curleys said the family had no comment.
The driver of the Winters Bros. garbage truck, James Jarosch, 59, of Ronkonkoma, was not injured in the crash, police said.
He was on his regular route collecting trash from restaurants and small businesses early Friday, said Tony Farina, Long Island district manager for Progressive Waste Solutions, which operates Winters Bros.
Donald Loughlin, a driver with M&V Limousines, said he came across the accident as he was driving to work.
He said the passenger side of the SUV was crushed and the vehicle was facing the highway's eastbound lane.
The truck driver was "very distraught," Loughlin said.
"It's upsetting," Loughlin said of the accident. "Three thirty in the morning -- it's a scary time."
The SUV was impounded for a safety check, and the truck was inspected at the scene by the police department's motor carrier division, police said.
Police issued Jarosch summonses for unsafe backing and an equipment violation.
Citing the pending investigation, Suffolk police declined to provide more details about the crash, including the speed Curley was traveling.
Farina called Jarosch an "upstanding individual" with more than two decades of experience driving a truck, including about six years with Winters Bros.
"We extend our deepest sympathies to the family of the deceased," Farina said.
A business owner and a resident of the area near the crash said that part of Jericho Turnpike is known for frequent accidents.
"I can't tell you how many accidents we've had here," said Michael Gries, 52, owner of Michael's Garden Center.
-- With Gary Dymski, Deborah Morris and Paul LaRocco