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Separate car crashes kill 2 Suffolk cops

Flags at two Suffolk police departments flew at half-staff after car crashes killed two officers, both former U.S. military personnel, and cast the police forces and the men's families into mourning.

The crashes - occurring 13 hours apart between Sunday afternoon and early Monday in Islandia and Eastport - also killed Christian Gomez, 33, of New Hyde Park.

The officers were identified as Robert Bowen, 34, of Ronkonkoma, an Iraq war veteran and a seven-year officer with the Suffolk County Police Department, and Richard Kappel, 40, of Speonk, an eight-year veteran of the Quogue Village Police Department. Kappel also served in the Air National Guard.

Gomez was a passenger in Kappel's car.

Bowen died early Monday as he drove on the Long Island Expressway to meet a brother in Port Jefferson, said Suffolk County Sheriff's chief of staff Mike Sharkey.

Bowen, who was off duty, was driving a 1994 BMW eastbound near Exit 58 in Islandia at about 4:15 a.m. when he lost control of the vehicle, which clipped the rear of a 2000 Ford Explorer, struck a guardrail and overturned, Sharkey said.

Bowen was an active Marine before becoming a reservist assigned to Echo Company of the 2nd Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment in Garden City. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

The cause of the crash is under investigation, said Sharkey.

It was not known if any of the victims were wearing seat belts.

"He was trying to avoid hitting the Explorer and the full sequence of events is under investigation by the accident reconstruction team," Sharkey said.

The Sunday afternoon crash killed Kappel, who was off duty, and Gomez, the cousin of Kappel's wife, as the two men rode northbound on Speonk Riverhead Road between Sunrise Highway and Suffolk County Community College in Eastport and struck a tree, Southampton police said.

Southampton police said Kappel, a Quogue officer since 2001, was driving a 2002 Ferrari, adding that while the investigation was ongoing, initial assessments showed that excessive speed may have been a contributor.

Both men were pronounced dead at the scene.

Christian Gomez's wife recalled a man who relished life and was known as a jack-of-all-trades at his job at Scotts Lawn Service in West Babylon.

Gomez worked in several jobs at Scotts, from sales to training.

"He was full of life, he would try anything and everything," said Amanda Gomez, 29, at their home in New Hyde Park. "He was a risk-taker, he just did whatever came his way."

With Martin Evans, Mitchell Freedman and Evan Drellich

>>Photos of this and other recent LI accidents

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