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SUV hits Malverne home like 'an earthquake'

The Malverne Police Department said a vehicle crashed

The Malverne Police Department said a vehicle crashed into a home at Hempstead and Ocean avenues in Malverne just after 6 a.m. and that the vehicle's driver, whose identity has not been released, was taken to South Nassau Communities Hospital in Oceanside. (June 14, 2012) Credit: Paul Mazza

The alarm went off Thursday morning and Javiera Ortega hit the snooze button.

And that might have saved her life.

Minutes later, a sport utility vehicle that police said was going north on Hempstead Avenue crashed through the south side of her house with such force that it demolished an interior stairway and caused the exterior brick chimney on the north side of the house to crumble and fall.

"My alarm went off at 6 a.m. and I hit snooze," Ortega said later. "Thank God I did because I would have been going down the stairs. . . . The stairs down were destroyed by the crash."

"I say it sounded like an earthquake because the glasses were falling off the table. I didn't know what to think," she said.

She said she grabbed her daughter and went to wake up her cousin, Frank Villegas, who lives in the house. The Malverne Fire Department used a ladder to get the family out a second-story window.

The Village of Malverne's Building Department deemed the house unsafe and sealed it off later in the day. The family was packing late Thursday and going to a hotel while their insurance company tries to find them a place to stay and engineers examine the house.

The white BMW X5 that hit the home on Hempstead Avenue might have been speeding, Malverne Police Chief John Aresta said. The house is just north of a Y-shaped intersection where Ocean Avenue merges into Hempstead.

The driver, Michael Loise, 23, of Oceanside was not charged because there were no injuries, Aresta said, no witnesses and no signs of drug or alcohol use. Loise was treated and released at South Nassau Communities Hospital in Oceanside, the hospital said.

Alex Villegas, 34, of Ozone Park, Queens, a brother of Frank, said the family was "pretty distraught." He said the family has had the house for three years and was fixing it up.

"You work hard all your life for something and it's taken away," he said.

Aresta said there had been "a lot of accidents" on that stretch of road, adding, "There's been numerous times utility poles have been hit. Houses have been hit three or four times."

The house next door had a car barrel into it in October and a third house has had several near misses, neighbors said.

Aresta said the county installed an island at the intersection and about three years ago traffic lights at the intersection were re-timed. The village has asked the county to reassess the intersection, to see if added safety features are needed.

Nassau County spokeswoman Katie Grilli-Robles said the county's Department of Public Works was asked by Malverne to assess the adequacy of the traffic light at the intersection for moving traffic, but not for safety. She said a Public Works crew checked March 16 and found the light adequate.

Next door to the scene of the accident, John Frisbie, 70, whose own house was hit by a car in October, said he didn't know how to solve the problem. "I don't know what they can do with the people going too fast, talking on their cellphones," he said.

"They need to slow things down,"neighborhood resident Tom Lavigata, 41, said, noting that drivers often speed through the intersection of Ocean and Hempstead avenues. Another neighbor, Courtney Kutcher, said "cars are always ending up in the bushes" near her home.

With John Valenti

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