A Babylon man has died after the SUV he was driving in Eastport Monday slammed into one of several utility poles that area residents have said were set too close to the road.
Eastport Fire Department First Lt. John Dalen said firefighters received a call of a crash on County Road 51 near County Road 111 at about 2:51 p.m. and dispatched several pieces of equipment and personnel to the scene.
The car, a 2009 Hyundai Santa Fe, was wedged against the steel pole and engulfed in flames when Chief Mark Yaboski and other firefighters arrived, but the sole victim had already been pulled from the burning vehicle by a Suffolk deputy sheriff lieutenant and two passers-by, Dalen said. The driver, Matthew Hillebrand, 47, was airlifted to Stony Brook University Hospital, where he was in critical condition.
Hillebrand has died, according to a Suffolk police news release Tuesday afternoon.
Michael Sharkey, chief of staff for Suffolk Sheriff Vincent DeMarco, said Deputy Sheriff Lt. Sal Petrone was on duty in the area when he heard the accident occur and rushed to the scene to help.
“He was the first one on the scene,” Sharkey said of the rescue. “Two civilian good Samaritans stopped as well, and the three of them had to get the operator out of the car because the fire started in a minute or so.”
The pole that stopped the vehicle is one of several that have been a sore subject for many area residents. In a July meeting with PSEG officials, residents said the company should run power lines underground. After the meeting, PSEG Vice President John O’Connell told Newsday the utility would offer to bury a portion of the line.
“PSEG Long Island is aware of the incident and responded immediately,” said Jeremy Walsh, a spokesman for PSEG Long Island. “As in any case when there is an accident involving any of our utility poles, our personnel are working to gather all the details as to what happened.”
While residents have said the poles are too close for comfort, Dalen said the crash Monday was the first instance of a vehicle striking one of them.
An earlier version of this story gave the incorrect location for the crash. It happened on County Road 51 near County Road 111.