A single mother who survived a crash on the Southern State Parkway was killed moments later Sunday morning when, after crossing three lanes of traffic to safety, she returned to her car and was struck by another vehicle, state police said.
Police said that about 4 a.m., near Exit 36 in West Babylon, Brittany Leith, 25, of North Babylon was driving west in the left lane when her car struck the median and overturned. Leith then headed to the parkway's shoulder, where other motorists came to her aid.
But within minutes, Leith returned to the vehicle in the left lane to retrieve items from the car -- against the objections of people helping her at the scene, State Police Senior Investigator Thomas Hughes said. Leith was at the side of her 2006 Nissan Sentra when the driver of a 2009 Chevrolet Malibu sideswiped Leith's car and struck her, police said.
That driver, who was originally driving in the right lane, had been "drawn to the lights" and the "commotion" at the right shoulder, so he switched to the left lanes, Hughes said. He did not see Leith or her car because its lights were off after the crash, Hughes said.
Later, another driver struck the car of a state trooper that was blocking traffic from her body. The trooper was treated for back pain and bruises to his face at Good Samaritan Hospital Medical Center in West Islip, police said. The driver of the 2005 Nissan Pathfinder that struck the trooper's car was not issued a summons, police said.
The trooper was getting out of his car when the Pathfinder struck his vehicle "right in the trunk," Hughes said.
Leith's family gathered in North Babylon on Sunday to grieve the mother of a 3-year-old girl, said Leith's maternal grandmother, Claire Hansen, 73, of North Babylon.
"How do we tell this little girl?" Hansen said. "She keeps saying, 'Where's Mommy? Where's Mommy?' "
Police and family said they did not know where Leith had been earlier in the night.
The crash occurred by Exit 36, Straight Path in West Babylon. Leith escaped from the overturned car by climbing out a cracked window.
Hansen said Leith was living with her paternal grandparents in North Babylon.
"She was very, very special to all of us," Hansen said of her granddaughter. "She's going to be terribly missed and we love her."
Leith had attended beauty school in the past and was back to pursue her license. She worked several days a week at a salon in North Babylon, shampooing and doing blowouts to gain experience, Hansen said.
"I was so proud of her," Hansen said.
"It's just not fair sometimes. Life isn't fair."
With Lisa Irizarry