The driver with a suspended license who was charged in Monday's crash on the Meadowbrook State Parkway that killed two men is a Suffolk County Community College associate dean.
Robert Beodeker, 50, of Aquebogue, was freed on $1,000 bail Tuesday from court, where he was arraigned on two misdemeanor charges: reckless driving and aggravated unlicensed driving.
Beodeker is the community college's associate dean of student services at the Riverhead campus, responsible for counseling, financial aid and more. He has a doctorate from Columbia University, where he also is an instructor at Teachers College.
He said he is fighting moving violations in New York City but was unaware his license would be suspended while he contested them.
Speaking after his arraignment at District Court in Hempstead, Beodeker expressed his grief over the deaths of the two crash victims, John Elder, 76, of Freeport, and Edward Ross, 65, of North Bellmore. They were flung after the pickup Beodeker was driving struck the disabled Nissan the men were tending to on wide white stripes on the right shoulder, just south of the Southern State Parkway in Roosevelt.
"I am devastated," Beodeker said. "I offer my heartfelt condolences. This was an accident, a tragic accident."
Twelve people have died in nine crashes apiece on both the Meadowbrook and the less-traveled Wantagh State Parkway in the five-year period beginning March 2008, state records show. Of the nine fatal crashes on the Meadowbrook, State Police attributed six to driver error, one to a vehicle failure, one to alcohol and one involved a car hitting a bicyclist.
Kerri Ross Reilly of Massapequa said the last time her family heard from her father was Monday morning, when he said he was going to help Elder, a friend, with his car.
When he didn't show up at her house about 3 p.m. to baby-sit her children, as he'd done for several years, the family became concerned, she said. Calls to his cellphone went to voice mail, she said, and her father was nowhere to be found. Only later in the evening did the family learn he was dead.
Of Beodeker, she said: "He didn't have a license and he shouldn't be on the road," she said. "Because of that, my children don't have a grandfather and I don't have a dad."
The family said they presume her father drove his silver Dodge to meet Elder, but the car was not at the crash scene or in his driveway.
"We can't figure out where the other car is," said his ex-wife, Kathy Kiely, 62, of Amityville.
State Police didn't return a reporter's call seeking clarification on the Dodge.
She said her ex-husband was a Vietnam veteran and a retired plumber who worked for decades for the state Parks Department. "He was a quiet, simple man," she said.
For nearly a decade, she said Ross had cared for his mother, who battled cancer and suffered from dementia in her later years and died last year.
"He cooked for her. He took her to the doctors," Kiely said. "He was her only outside source to the world. He really was devoted to his mom."
Ross, an Army private first class from 1968 to 1970, fought in Long Binh, Vietnam, when he hurt his hand during one of the attacks and was sent home, she said. He was honorably discharged.
In Monday's crash, Beodeker stayed at the scene, cooperated with police and there were no obvious indications alcohol played a role, investigators said.
Beodeker said he'd tried to avoid the men. "I had no idea they were even there until it was too late," he said.
Beodeker said he was returning from Queens and was going to stop at SCCC before going home to await a doctor's appointment for an injured hand.
He had driven south from the Northern State Parkway on the Meadowbrook toward the Southern State, he said. As he drove, two lanes merged, Beodeker said.
The crash was south of the entrance to the Southern State.
The lanes merged near the top of an incline, he said, and at the last moment he noticed the two people outside a vehicle.
"They were parked on the right of the highway," he said. "There was almost nothing I could do. The moment I saw them, I slammed on the brakes and turned my steering wheel.
Elder's family said they were too distraught to comment.
In a statement, Mary Lou Araneo, SCCC's vice president for institutional advancement, said "the college will wait until it can review the outcome" of the police investigation before taking any action.
With Sarah Crichton
and Gary Dymski