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4 killed, 2 hurt in wrong-way crash on Southern State, police say

The eastbound Southern State Parkway was closed on

The eastbound Southern State Parkway was closed on Tuesday morning near Exit 27 in Wantagh for a multivehicle accident with "multiple fatalities," State Police said. Here is Newsday's Chelsea Irizarry with the story. Credit: Newsday

This story was reported by Matt Clark, Carl MacGowan, Antonio Planas, John Valenti and Dandan Zou. It was written by Planas and Valenti.

A wrong-way crash early Tuesday on the Southern State Parkway in North Massapequa killed four people and injured two, including one seriously, and sparked a chain-reaction collision, state police said.

The fiery crash occurred about 5:10 am when a 1998 Toyota Camry going the wrong way on the eastbound parkway hit a 2011 Nissan Rogue head-on between Exit 29 and Exit 30. The driver of the Camry, Marvin Balcaseres, 33, of Farmingdale, died, as did three others in the Rogue, identified by police as driver Ruben Sanchez-Flores, 67, and passengers Edith Magana, 56, and Ivis Sanchez-Cordova, 34, all of Hempstead.

The victims in the Rogue were headed to work in Farmingdale at the time of the crash, police said.

About 5:08 a.m., police received several 911 calls reporting a wrong-way driver heading westbound on the eastbound parkway in the Town of Oyster Bay, said Acting Troop L Commander Capt. George J. Mohl at a news briefing Tuesday afternoon.

"At approximately 5:10 a.m., we received additional phone calls that the vehicle had collided with another vehicle, west of Exit 30," Mohl said at Troop L headquarters in East Farmingdale.

Five state police troopers were on the parkway at the time of the 911 calls, Mohl said, but the crash occurred before they could intervene.

When troopers arrived, Mohl said, they found a "chaotic scene."

Smoke and flames billowed up from the wreckage. Debris, including antifreeze and engine oil, had spilled across the parkway. Oncoming vehicles swerved to avoid scattered debris before troopers eventually shut the eastbound roadway down.

A third passenger in the Rogue, Nadia Sanchez-Cordova, 44, also of Hempstead, was taken in critical condition to Nassau University Medical Center in East Meadow, police said. She was riding in the front passenger seat, police said.

Relatives of Sanchez-Flores declined to comment Tuesday. A woman believed to be a close friend or relative of Magana's also declined to comment on behalf of the victim's family.

After the initial collision, a 2011 Suzuki SUV struck the Camry while attempting to avoid the crash. The driver, Steven Miller, 50, of Queens, was not hurt, police said.

Roberto Mack, 32, of Conyers, Georgia, riding a 2000 Honda motorcycle, also attempted to avoid the wreck but struck debris and lost control, Mohl said. Mack suffered "non-life-threatening injuries" and was taken to Good Samaritan Hospital Medical Center in West Islip, police said.

The Camry had entered the parkway at either Exit 30 or 31, Mohl said.

"Once we can determine where he entered, we’ll ensure there were proper markings," Mohl said.

The eastbound lanes of the parkway near the crash site were closed for five hours while investigators used "drone technologies for forensic mapping of the scene."

Mohl said the investigation into the cause of the crash was ongoing and anyone with information should call state police at 631-756-3300. Department of Transportation cameras are on the Southern State Parkway, but they monitor traffic and don't record, Mohl said. Investigators were hoping to obtain video from businesses or private residences that could help retrace Balcaseres' route before he drove onto the parkway, Mohl said.

Autopsies will determine whether alcohol or drugs were involved in the crash, police said.

Balcaseres pleaded guilty to drunken driving in 2009, according to court records. His license was suspended for six months and he received a $500 fine and 50 hours of community service, records show. In 2015, Balcaseres pleaded guilty to drug possession, according to court records.

Fatal wrong-way crashes are uncommon on Long Island, although there have been more than a dozen in the past 30-plus years.

According to the federal government's Fatality Analysis Reporting System database, a driver traveling the wrong way on a one-way road was listed as a factor in only two of the 998 fatal crashes on Long Island between 2014 and 2018, the most recent data available. Of the 43 fatal crashes on the Southern State Parkway in that period, none listed a wrong-way driver as a factor.

In July 2005, wrong-way driver Martin Heidgen slammed into a wedding limo on the Meadowbrook Parkway, killing driver Stanley Rabinowitz, 59, and flower girl Katie Flynn, 7. Authorities said Heidgen, 24, had a blood alcohol content of 0.28%. He was sentenced to 19 years in prison.

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