Christopher White got up early Saturday to help give a group of World War II veterans bound for the nation's capital a rousing send-off.
White, 44, of Medford was part of a motorcycle group that escorted the elderly veterans to Long Island MacArthur Airport, said a longtime friend, Jerilynn Kiss.
After the event, as White was leaving the airport at 7:15 a.m., he was struck by a van that ran a red light. He was taken to Southside Hospital in Bay Shore, where he was pronounced dead, police said.
"He died like he lived: doing something nice for someone else," said Kiss, 44, of Selden.
Police said Paul Porrini, 55, of Selden, was driving a 2007 Chevrolet Express van west on Veterans Memorial Highway when he ran the light at the Johnson Avenue intersection and struck White's motorcycle and three other vehicles.
Porrini was arrested and charged with driving while impaired by drugs. He is scheduled to be arraigned Sunday at First District Court in Central Islip.
Four people in the other vehicles hit by the van were injured in the crash, police said. They were taken to Southside Hospital in Bay Shore and Brookhaven Memorial Hospital Medical Center in East Patchogue, where they were treated and released.
The highway was shut down in both directions between Smithtown and Central avenues until shortly before 3 p.m., police said.
White and his wife, Dottie, were raising three young boys, Kiss said.
"He was one of the best guys I have ever known," she said. "He was always quick to do something for someone else."
Kiss said White wasn't a veteran himself but attended events supporting local veterans about once a month. She said he got involved when he reconnected with a friend, Frank Bania, who runs Boots on the Ground NY, a Bellport-based veterans organization. Bania participated in Saturday's event.
White grew up in Medford and graduated from Patchogue-Medford High School.
He was easygoing and "helped everybody with everything," said Dottie White's cousin, Wendy Zumpol of Patchogue.
Zumpol said the couple's first encounters involved him fixing Dottie's oil burners and removing poison ivy from her home.
He worked as a field service manager for Petro, a heating and air conditioning company.
"We're shocked and sickened by the terrible tragedy," said Ed Gomez, general manager at Petro.
A funeral Mass will be offered at 9:30 a.m. Thursday at St. Sylvester's Church in Medford. Visiting will be Tuesday and Wednesday, 2-4 p.m. and 7-9 p.m., at Ruland Funeral Home in Patchogue.
With Scott Eidler