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Passenger killed, driver charged with DWI in Patchogue accident

Joseph Keleher, then 24, of Ronkonkoma, was arrested

Joseph Keleher, then 24, of Ronkonkoma, was arrested and charged with driving while intoxicated after a fatal crash in Patchogue on Aug. 28, 2014. Police said Keleher's passenger, Kevin Smith, 25, of Oakdale, was ejected from the vehicle when it overturned before coming to a stop on Edwards Street. Credit: SCPD

One man was killed Thursday after he was ejected from an overturned car in a Patchogue accident in which the driver was charged with drunken driving, Suffolk police said.

Kevin Smith, 25, of Oakdale, was thrown from the vehicle, a 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee, when it overturned and skidded to a stop on Edwards Street at 12:01 a.m., police said.

A Breathalyzer test showed the blood alcohol level of the driver, Joseph Keleher, 24, of Ronkonkoma, was almost three times the legal limit of .08, police said.

Keleher had been eastbound on Baker Street when he lost control of the vehicle as it crossed Rider Avenue, police said. It is a T-intersection with a stop sign, and drivers must turn left or right, said Det. Sgt. James Madden of the vehicular crime unit.

"The car went straight," he said, before it hit a curb, went up a grass embankment and overturned, coming to a stop on nearby Edwards Street, police said.

Smith was pronounced dead at Brookhaven Memorial Hospital Medical Center in East Patchogue.

Police believe Smith was not wearing a seat belt, and his family said Smith, just under 6 feet tall and about 260 pounds, did not like to buckle up.

"He's a big boy," said his aunt, Joanne Smith of Oakdale. "I'm sure it was uncomfortable for him."

"Some people think they're too restrictive," the aunt said. "I'm very guilty of it myself, but I'll certainly pay more attention to it now."

Relatives said they believe the two men had gone out to eat.

His family described Smith, who had gone through drug rehabilitation a year ago, as "a pleasure" to be around. He was "growing up," looking for work, his family said.

"He stopped drinking," Joanne Smith said. "He's been clean for at least nine months now.

"He had a rough life and he was just putting it all together and this is how he gets rewarded."

His father, Bill Smith of Lake Grove, said his son was looking at job ads and had adopted a little "girl," a blue-eyed puppy from the Islip Town animal shelter. He named her Diamond.

"He wanted to take care of something," his father said. "He would walk her every day.

"Everything was going so well . . . and he was looking to start working and getting life in order."

Keleher was arraigned Thursday in First District Court in Central Islip; bail was set at $150,000 bond or $75,000 cash. He had pleaded guilty in 2011 to driving while ability impaired, an infraction.

His attorney, Michael Brown of Central Islip, declined to comment on the crash but said Keleher, a carpenter, was expected to post bail. "My client is a young man who is extremely hardworking and comes from a good family," he said.

Police ask anyone with information to call vehicular crime unit detectives at 631-852-6555.

Viewing hours for Smith have been set for 2-4:30 p.m. and 7-9:30 p.m. Friday at Raynor & D'Andrea Funeral Homes in Bayport. A 10 a.m. service will be held Saturday at St. Lawrence the Martyr Roman Catholic Church in Sayville, followed by burial at St. Lawrence Cemetery.

Donations in lieu of flowers may be made to St. Christopher's Inn in Garrison, New York.

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