First responders work at the scene of the deadly multi-vehicle...

First responders work at the scene of the deadly multi-vehicle crash that killed three members of a family on westbound Sunrise Highway in East Massapequa on Sunday night. Credit: Paul Mazza

A girl who survived a devastating crash Sunday night in East Massapequa that killed three members of her family has catastrophic injuries, her grandmother said Wednesday.

“Her spine was severed,” Tasheba Hamilton-Huntley, the girl's grandmother, said in an interview Wednesday. Family and police have identified the girl as Chantel, 6. 

The crash on Sunrise Highway killed her grandfather, Patrice Huntley, 60, of Flushing, and Jeremiah, 10, and Hannah, 13, of Uniondale, his and Hamilton-Huntley’s children. Their vehicle was stopped at a red light when they were rear-ended by a 2023 Hyundai Kona being driven at a high rate of speed, according to Nassau County police.

Among those injured in Huntley’s vehicle were his 18-year-old stepdaughter, 14-year-old son and Chantel, police and family members said.

Chantel was the smallest person in the car and was sitting in the back at the time of the crash, Hamilton-Huntley said.

“So, the fact that she made it this far, you know, is a miracle," she said. "She'll never breathe again on her own … every bone in her legs were broken. Her arm is broken. Her head had injuries. It's a nightmare.”

The hospital has “maxed out everything they can do for her,” Hamilton-Huntley said. “We're praying.”

Hamilton-Huntley said earlier that Nassau detectives had told her the Hyundai that struck her family was one of a pair of vehicles racing at 100 mph. Police have not identified the Hyundai’s driver except to say that he is a 32-year-old Lindenhurst man, and no charges had been filed in the crash, said Brendan Brosh, a spokesman for the Nassau district attorney..

On Wednesday police spokesman Det. Lt. Richard LeBrun did not answer questions about the crash, saying in an email there was “still an ongoing investigation.”

At a news conference Monday at police headquarters, Det. Capt. Stephen Fitzpatrick said the Hyundai driver was traveling at an “extreme high rate of speed,” but police have not said publicly how fast he was traveling or why. ”We’re not finished with the investigation, there’s other aspects of it that I don’t want to get into at this press conference,” Fitzpatrick said Monday.

Michael Alcazar, a retired NYPD detective and adjunct professor specializing in law and police science studies at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, talked about the differences between the East Massapequa crash and another deadly crash in West Hempstead Monday, in which the driver was charged with second-degree manslaughter in the death of another 6-year-old girl.

In the West Hempstead crash, responding officers said they smelled alcohol on the driver’s breath, and a breath test allegedly showed he had twice the legal limit of alcohol in his system. Those indicators provided evidence supporting probable cause that officers responding to the crash in East Massapequa may have lacked, he said.

Other lines of investigation in East Massapequa could include evaluating the speeding vehicle for mechanical defects and the driver for a possible medical condition.

Police are likely searching for surveillance footage from businesses near the crash scene, as well as dashcam footage from any vehicles that were nearby at the time of the crash to determine speed and how the crash occurred, Alcazar said.

Alcazar said police were unlikely to release the name of the driver unless they make an arrest.

Touro Law Center professor Richard Klein said that criminal procedure rules — including changes to New York State’s rules that limit the time prosecutors have to share evidence with defense counsel — could also explain why police have not made an arrest. “They have a limited number of days … Maybe they don’t wish that clock to start ticking until they need to.”

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