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Witness: Wrong-way driver ‘aiming’ for car before fatal crash

Scene of a fatal crash on Sunrise Highway

Scene of a fatal crash on Sunrise Highway in Shirley on Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2015. Christopher O Brien, of Sound Beach, is on trial in Central Islip, charged with second-degree murder in the fatal wrong-way crash. Credit: James Carbone

Motorists driving west into the fog early one December morning testified Thursday about seeing a car come at them on their side of Sunrise Highway before hitting another car head-on.

Andrea Barile, then of Mastic, said he was going to work in Hauppauge when he saw the oncoming car hit the vehicle that Barile was following.

“It seemed like he was aiming for that car,” Barile said, describing how the wrong-way car moved from the right westbound lane to hit the car in the left westbound lane.

Barile’s assessment could be important in the trial of Christopher O’Brien, 55, of Sound Beach, who is accused of driving drunk and high on cocaine when he killed Thomas D’Eletto, 57, a project manager going from his home in Aquebogue to work in Nassau County on Dec. 23, 2015.

O’Brien is charged with second-degree murder, a rare charge in vehicular cases. To convict, prosecutors must convince state Supreme Court Justice Fernando Camacho, who is hearing the case in Central Islip without a jury, that O’Brien had the state of mind necessary to prove he had a depraved indifference to human life.

During cross-examination by defense attorney Scott Gross of Hauppauge, Barile acknowledged that he never described O’Brien targeting D’Eletto’s car in the statement he gave to police or his grand jury testimony. Barile told Gross he considered the statement and the testimony “accurate and complete.”

After the crash in Yaphank, Barile said he ran to O’Brien’s Audi and banged on the windows. O’Brien seemed unconscious at first, but then raised his head and opened his door. Barile said he asked him if he was OK.

“He responded with, ‘Why is everybody bothering me?’” Barile said during questioning by Assistant District Attorney Marc Lindemann.

Then Barile went to D’Eletto’s Toyota, and heard a firefighter say he could find no pulse.

Earlier, Renee Bye, then of Amagansett, testified that her husband was driving her that morning to Kennedy Airport so she could catch a flight to Florida. Their car was in the right lane with D’Eletto’s behind, she said.

As they came to Exit 57, she said D’Eletto’s car moved to the left lane and pulled alongside to pass their car. That’s when she saw the oncoming car. Unlike Barile, she and others have all testified that O’Brien was only in the left lane.

“The cars went together,” she said. “Debris showered our car. There was a big explosion, and the man died.”

She called 911 as she continued to Kennedy.

“I cried, and I cried on the plane,” she said. “It’s affected my life.”

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