The East Hampton police officer who was hit by a suspected wrong-way drunken driver while heading home last month had just spent four hours on a Stop DWI patrol, police said Thursday.
Officer Vincent Rantinella, the department's leader in drunken-driving arrests for the past three years, is expected to fully recover, East Hampton Town Police Chief Ed Ecker said Thursday.
The 31-year-old officer went through three operations to repair injuries to his right ankle and heel and a broken sternum, Ecker said. But it will take him months to return to work.
"It makes you angry. Very angry, very angry," he said.
Rantinella, who is married with a young son and lives in Ridge, is an eight-year veteran of the department, Ecker said. He has been the department's recipient of the Suffolk County Police's Top Cop Award, the police chief said.
Before the May 28 accident, Rantinella had worked a 4 p.m. to midnight shift and then another four hours on the DWI patrol, Ecker said.
"That's some of the irony of it, though I hate to use the word 'ironic' " because it lessens the seriousness of what happened, Ecker said.
Police said Francisco Tomas, 26, of 47 Midway Dr., Riverhead, was behind the wheel about 4:17 a.m. on Middle Country Road when his 1997 Volkswagen Jetta, which was going east in the westbound lane, struck Rantinella's 1999 Honda Civic. Tomas suffered a severe ankle injury and a broken leg.
Ecker said Rantinella was wearing his seat belt, his air bags deployed and the crash was "almost directly in front of the Ridge Fire Department."
Rantinella was released from Stony Brook University Medical Center on Tuesday, where he had been hospitalized since the crash. He was not available for comment Thursday.
Tomas was charged with operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated, unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle and crossing the divider on a limited-access road.
He was arraigned on May 31 and ordered held on $50,000 bond or $25,000 cash bail. Court records indicate he did not post bail and the case was adjourned until July 5 after an appearance in First District Court in Central Islip on June 2.
Attorney information for Tomas was not available.
Ecker said he asked the East Hampton Town Board this week to allow other officers on the 60-person force to donate sick time to Rantinella.
Such an accident "shouldn't happen to anybody," Ecker said. "But to have it happen to this guy? This guy's a good guy. Not only a very, very good police officer, but a very good human being, as well."