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After second fatal Brentwood crash at site, officials take steps

Scene of deadly crash where a vehicle split

Scene of deadly crash where a vehicle split in half, killing Jose Funes. It was the same spot where a 15-year-old teenager was killed a year ago. (July 20, 2010) Photo Credit: James Carbone

Suffolk County police said they will increase patrols and install a digital speed sign or camera on a stretch of Crooked Hill Road in Brentwood where a 21-year-old driver was killed early Tuesday in an almost identical accident to one that killed a teen last July.

The county's public works department will review the site over the next few days. Its initial assessment suggests that the young drivers' excessive speed - and not the road's design - caused two fatal crashes in the same spot, between St. Peter Drive and the Suffolk County Community College West Campus, said Bill Hillman, the department's chief engineer.

Jose Funes of Brentwood was traveling north on Crooked Hill at about 4 a.m. when he lost control of his speeding car and hit a tree that serves as a memorial for the teenage passenger killed there last summer, police said.

Funes' white 1995 Honda Accord split into two, Sgt. Bob Koerber of the Third Squad said, and both Funes and his passenger, Liana Vides, 19, also of Brentwood, were ejected.

Funes was pronounced dead at the scene. Koerber said Vides was taken to Southside Hospital in Bay Shore with "nonlife-threatening" injuries.

Last July, Peter Claudio, 15, of Brentwood, was killed when the car he was riding in hit the same tree, then struck a parked car.

His brother, Benjamin Claudio, 16, who had a junior license at the time, was behind the wheel of the 1990 Acura Integra, driving north on Crooked Hill Road, authorities said. Faded flowers and deflated balloons from the crash last July were still at the site Tuesday.

Benjamin Claudio was partially ejected from the vehicle and suffered head and neck injuries.

Last month, a pedestrian was hit by a car at Crooked Hill and Wicks roads, just north of the accident site, authorities said.

Tuesday, Adam Ramos, 50, who lives across the street from the accident site, said he heard the crash as he walked his dogs and rushed to comfort Vides. She was screaming " 'My honey, my baby,' " in Spanish, he said.

Ramos and Joseph Ansah, 29, who lives on a nearby street, said drivers often speed on a straight mile-and-a-half stretch between traffic lights on Crooked Hill Road. Pedestrians and drivers entering Crooked Hill Road from side streets are vulnerable to the speeders, they said.

"I don't want my family to be the next tragedy," Ansah said.

Tuesday afternoon, Funes' friends looked at the tree where his car crashed, examining the bottom of the trunk, stripped bare of its bark, and the pieces of glass scattered on the ground.

Jesseniah Aquino, 19, of Bay Shore, said she had been with Funes and Vides, his girlfriend, at another friend's house minutes before the accident. The friends had their first long conversation in months, she said, and ate takeout from Taco Bell while watching "Family Guy."

Funes left after an argument started to keep it from escalating, and was a few blocks away from the apartment he and Vides had shared for about two months, Aquino said.

"He was always the one to try to settle things," she said.

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