An alleged drunken driver who struck and killed a married couple in Ronkonkoma as they drove home from a family dinner admitted to cops he was drinking before the crash, Suffolk police said Monday.
Kyle Glinka, 23, of Lafayette Avenue in Bohemia, who underwent surgery at Stony Brook University Hospital after the crash, was arrested on a charge of driving while intoxicated, and could face upgraded charges, Suffolk Det. Sgt. James Madden said Monday.
William Kear, 67, and his wife, Joanne Kear, 66, who lived in Medford, were pronounced dead Sunday night at Brookhaven Memorial Hospital Medical Center shortly after the 9 p.m. crash, police said.
Witnesses to the collision at the intersection of Lakeland and Ocean avenues, told police Glinka was speeding and ran a red light, said Madden, of the department’s Major Case Unit.
Laura Stepper, 52, a neighbor, who lives across the street from the Kears, tearfully recalled the couple as devoted parents and grandparents, whose lives revolved around family. They frequently hosted relatives in their backyard pool. On Easter they held a family get-together, Stepper said.
They were both retired and had lived in Nassau County before moving to Medford 10 years ago, Stepper said.
“They were really great people, no airs about them,” said Stepper, a school bus driver. “They were so down-to-earth, so family-oriented. It was about the kids and grandchildren. That was the most important thing to them.”
The neighbors were close, Stepper said. Joanne Kear offered emotional support to Stepper when her mother died a year ago. And when William Kear, known as “Bill” to family and friends, renovated the couple’s kitchen, Stepper got a tour.
The Kears grew tomatoes, zucchini and eggplant in their backyard vegetable garden, frequently sharing their bounty with her, Stepper said.
“Zucchini bread was her specialty,” Stepper said. “He would make us eggplant parmigiana. . . . They were just those kind of people, neighbors like . . . the kind of neighbors our parents had, which is rare today.”
Sunday night, after having dinner with their grandchildren and one of their three adult daughters at her Bohemia home, the Kears headed back to Medford, Madden said.
Glinka, traveling south on Ocean Avenue as it veers left into Lakeland Avenue, struck a 2014 Chevrolet pickup driven by Bill Kear about 9 p.m. as he attempted a left turn on to Lakeland before going north on Ocean Avenue, police said.
The impact overturned the Kears’ pickup truck, police said.
One of the first officers on the scene smelled alcohol on Glinka’s breath, Madden said, adding that the Bohemia man admitted to the officer he had been drinking.
“Mr. Glinka needed medical assistance. The police officer stayed with Mr. Glinka in the ambulance,” Madden said. “Mr. Glinka made oral admissions that he was drinking. He smelt of alcohol.”
Madden said authorities are awaiting results of a blood alcohol test for Glinka, who has no previous criminal record.
After surgery early Monday for injuries he suffered in the crash, Glinka was listed in serious condition, Madden said.
An attorney for Glinka could not be reached Monday and no one answered messages left at his Bohemia home.
Outside the Kears’ home Monday, their son-in-law, who didn’t give his name, spoke briefly before breaking into tears.
“They were great people,” he said. “They had eight beautiful grandchildren that loved them and are devastated right now, and so’s the rest of the family.”
Bill Kear worked for Entenmann’s in Bay Shore for about 30 years before he retired. Joanne Kear worked in Nassau County and retired when the family moved to Suffolk.
The crash that claimed the couple’s lives occurred in an area of Ocean Avenue where other motorists have died in collisions in recent years. Just a block north, Eugene Franjola, 17, of Oakdale, was struck and killed by an unlicensed driver in 2010.
At the time of his death, Franjola was the third teenager in two years to die in a crash in the vicinity of Lakeland and Ocean avenues. Just before Sunday night’s deadly crash, Bill Kear was driving the pickup on a curved, two-lane section of Ocean Avenue that feeds onto a busy four-lane strip of Lakeland.
Narges Zamaniyan, who lives on Ocean Avenue near the intersection with Lakeland, said drivers frequently speed in the area. She and other neighbors have repeatedly asked the police to do more, but the accidents continue, she said.
Suffolk police said they could not immediately comment Monday on the frequency of accidents in the area.
Zamaniyan, 68, a 35-year resident, said she has witnessed many traffic collisions.
“We hope they do something about it,” Zamaniyan said, referring to Suffolk police and the frequent crashes. “I was so upset. I prayed all night last night that nobody was killed. . . . I heard this morning. I feel so bad.”
Anyone with more information can call the Major Case Unit at 631-852-6553.
With Gary Dymski, William Murphy and Jo Napolitano