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Driver killed, 4 passengers hurt in Southern State crash

All eastbound lanes of the Southern State Parkway

All eastbound lanes of the Southern State Parkway were closed in Nassau County for an accident investigation, according to the state Department of Transportation. (April 1, 2013) Credit: Paul Mazza

A motorist was killed and four passengers were injured, one seriously, early Monday when an SUV hit a guardrail on the Southern State Parkway in North Merrick and went down an embankment, state police said.

The 1996 white Toyota 4Runner was heading east when the accident occurred about 4:45 a.m. east of Exit 24, police said. Three months ago, a passenger in a car was killed when it went off the parkway in the westbound lanes near Exit 23.

In the past two calendar years, 16 people have died in 11 crashes in the Nassau County section of the Southern State Parkway, according to Nassau County records. State records show 34 people were killed in 29 accidents on that section from 2007 through 2011.

The stretch of the parkway between Exit 17 and Exit 30 in Nassau has been dubbed "Blood Alley" by police and automotive safety groups because of its history of fatal crashes. Two of the people involved in the crash Monday were taken to Nassau University Medical Center in East Meadow, two to Winthrop-University Hospital in Mineola, and one to South Nassau Communities Hospital in Oceanside, Sgt. James Needham of the Troop L in Farmingdale said.

The passenger in critical condition was taken to NUMC, Needham said, and the three others -- ages 20, 23 and 40 -- were in stable condition. Needham did not have an age for the passenger in critical condition. He said the driver was 35 years old.

Police are withholding identities of those involved, pending notification of their families.

Investigators believe excessive speed and slick road conditions could have contributed to the crash but the investigation is ongoing, Needham said.

The parkway was closed from about 4:45 a.m. to about 9:30 a.m., police and state officials said.

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