David Olson, Lisa Irizarry, Stefanie Dazio and Zachary R. Dowdy reported on this story. It was written by Dowdy.
A motorist going the wrong way on Sunrise Highway in Brookhaven crashed head-on into a van heading west, killing both drivers and critically injuring a passenger early Sunday, Suffolk police said.
The 4:05 a.m. crash near Horseblock Road was the first of two at that location Sunday. Three hours later, the driver of a street sweeper who police believe fell asleep at the wheel burst through the closed-off investigation area in the slow-moving vehicle and struck two police cars, injuring an officer, police said.
Detectives said a Brentwood resident, Kevin Melgar, 23, of Brevoort Place, was driving east on Sunrise Highway in a 2004 Infiniti — but in the westbound lanes near Exit 57 — when he struck an oncoming 2001 Chevrolet van driven by Ozcan Ayyildiz, 49, of Wavecrest Drive in Mastic Beach, police said.
Melgar was pronounced dead at the scene and Ayyildiz died at Brookhaven Memorial Hospital Medical Center in East Patchogue, police said.
A passenger in the Infiniti, identified as Jonathan Valladare, 25, also of Brevoort Place in Brentwood, was critically injured and also was taken to the East Patchogue hospital, police said.
Suheda Ayyildiz, 20, who identified herself as Ayyildiz’s eldest daughter, said her father was driving to work when his van was struck. She said Sunday she was too distraught to talk further.
“That crash alone was certainly disturbing,” said Suffolk Police Commissioner Timothy Sini, who called the two crashes a “confluence of several different incidents.”
During the investigation of the initial crash, the street sweeper passed through the road closure and struck a marked Highway Patrol vehicle with its lights on and an officer sitting inside at 7:23 a.m., police said.
The officer, who has been with the department for four years, suffered injuries that were not considered life-threatening and was airlifted to Stony Brook University Hospital, officials said.
Sini said the officer had been discharged and was “on the road to recovery.”
The other Suffolk County police car struck by the street sweeper was occupied by a 27-year department veteran sergeant who was not hurt, police said. That vehicle also had its emergency lights on.
The street sweeper was driven by Robert Cook, 36, of Levittown, who was not injured, police said. He was issued “multiple violations” and the vehicle underwent a post-crash safety inspection, police said.
A photographer working for Newsday said he and another photographer were warned by police of the oncoming street sweeper and had to run out of the way.
Kenneth Roy, the chief executive of PAM Sweeping, where Cook is a part-time employee, said Cook would be drug-tested Monday, as per company protocol for employees involved in accidents.
A Suffolk police spokeswoman said Cook “was cited because he fell asleep. That’s why he drove through the road blockade.”
Sini said the street sweeper crash, while not fatal, demonstrates how police face threats at all times.
“It just highlights the dangers of the work the officers do each and every day,” he said. “They risk their lives daily and this highlights that.”