This story was reported by Lisa Irizarry, Ted Phillips, Laura Figueroa, John Asbury and Nicole Fuller. It was written by Fuller
A Suffolk County political aide, a pair of siblings from Nassau County, an 81-year-old man and a 10-year-old boy were killed and six people injured Sunday after an out-of-control car careened across the LIE’s grassy median near Manorville, went airborne, slammed into westbound traffic and broke into pieces, Suffolk police said.
Killed in the three-vehicle crash between exits 68 and 69 were Scott Martella, 29, of Northport, who was County Executive Steve Bellone’s communications director; Carmelo Pinales, 26, of Hicksville; and his sister, Patricia Pinales, 27, of Westbury, police said. Carmelo Pinales’ son, Christopher, died hours later at Stony Brook University Hospital, police said. And Isidore Adelson, 81, of Westhampton, perished Sunday night.
Carmelo Pinales worked in the food services industry and Patricia Pinales was a medical assistant, a friend said.
Martella and the Pinales siblings were pronounced dead at the scene by a physician assistant from the Office of the Suffolk County Medical Examiner, police said.
Winnifer Garcia, 21, of Hempstead and Patricia Pinales’ 3-year-old daughter, also of Westbury, were transported to hospitals, where they were treated for non-life-threatening injuries.
Carmelo Pinales was driving a gray Subaru Outback east on the LIE when he apparently lost control of the vehicle, police said. The Outback crossed over the grassy median, went airborne and struck two vehicles — a BMW and a Honda — that were traveling west near Exit 68 about 9:35 a.m.
Martella was driving the 2014 Honda with his fiancee, Shelbi Thurau, 29, of Northport, as a passenger. After the collision, she was transported to a hospital, where she was treated for non-life-threatening injuries, police said.
Marvin Tenzer, 73, the driver of the 2016 BMW, and his three passengers — Sandra Tenzer, 69, Isidore Adelson, and his wife, Helen Adelson, all of Westhampton — were transported to hospitals. Helen Adelson was listed in critical condition, but the Tenzers were treated for non-life-threatening injuries, officials said.
Authorities closed the LIE in both directions after the 9:35 a.m. crash; the highway reopened about 6 p.m. Traffic was diverted onto surface streets and to Sunrise Highway, authorities said, causing major traffic jams on what would already be a busy time with hordes traveling to and from beaches and other activities on the East End.
Suffolk Police Chief of Detectives Gerard Gigante, speaking at a news briefing near the scene of the crash, said debris from the collisions hit a fourth vehicle, resulting in minor damage.
“It looks like the Outback went airborne, hit the top of the Honda — the Honda doesn’t have front-end damage, but has significant roof damage,” Gigante said. “And it appears the BMW and the Outback collided. The engine of the Outback was thrown several hundred feet into the woods. The car is pretty much destroyed. It’s broken up into numerous pieces.”
Investigators are still working to determine why Pinales lost control, but Gigante said “we’re looking into the fact that we believe speed might have been a factor.”
Several of the victims were ejected from the vehicles and investigators also want to determine whether they were wearing seat belts, he said.
Brian Luque said he and 12 of his cousins, including the Pinales, were going to the Splish Splash water park in Riverhead in several cars. He was traveling far behind the Pinales siblings and didn’t see the crash, he said while waiting with family at the Stony Brook hospital where the injured children had been taken.
Federico Pinales, an uncle of Carmelo and Patricia, speaking from the hospital where the family had congregated, said Patricia’s daughter was to undergo a second round of surgery on her injured leg on Monday.
Firefighters and Suffolk police officers walked the section of the closed roadway throughout the afternoon as the crash investigation continued.
Nearby, the remains of two severely damaged vehicles rested on the right shoulder of the westbound LIE while a third vehicle — also with heavy damage — sat sideways at the center divider. All three vehicles have been impounded for safety checks, police said.
Chunks of debris from the crash were spread out across the LIE’s westbound lanes.
“I’ve been with the department 22 years; this is one of the worst accidents I’ve ever seen,” said Manorville Fire Department Chief Sal D’Amato, who was among the first wave of first responders on the scene. “I’ve never seen nothing like this. There was just a massive amount of metal all over the place.”