A teenager suspected of driving under the influence crashed a stolen sport utility vehicle into another car while fleeing police in Middle Island, killing his half-brother and a couple in their 70s, authorities said Sunday.
Nahriek Belford, 17, of Bellport was charged with one count of reckless endangerment in the Saturday night crash. Additional charges are expected, police said, and he is to be arraigned at a later date.
The Nissan Rogue driven by Belford was traveling west on Route 25 about 11:50 p.m. when it struck a 2009 Honda CRV attempting to make a left turn onto Birchwood Park Drive, officials said.
The driver of the Honda, Jerome Weingarten, 74, of Middle Island, and his wife, Randee Weingarten, 71, were pronounced dead at the scene by a physician assistant with the Suffolk County medical examiner's office. A passenger in the Nissan, Angelo Belford, 19, was also pronounced dead at the scene. Police identified Angelo Belford as Nahriek Belford’s half-brother. Jaquelle Funderburke, 16, a passenger in the Nissan, survived the crash, police said.
Belford and Funderburke were taken to Stony Brook University Hospital for treatment of injuries that were serious but not life-threatening, police said. Belford was still in the hospital on Monday morning.
The Weingartens' son, Jason Weingarten, 41, said Sunday that his parents were returning home from dinner at the time of the crash. The couple were married for 50 years and had two other children — both daughters — and six grandchildren, he said.
Randee Weingarten was a retired bookkeeper for an attorney and played mahjong, her son said, and Jerome Weingarten did tax preparation work for part of the year and rooted for his beloved New York Rangers and Jets.
"They enjoyed life," Jason Weingarten said. "This is a huge loss.”
Belford had trouble staying in his lane, leading police to conclude he was under the influence when the SUV hit the Weingartens' Honda, Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart said Sunday during a news conference at the First Precinct in West Babylon.
"I want to extend our sincerest condolences to the family of Jerome Weingarten and his wife Randee as well as 19-year-old Angelo Belford, a passenger in the Nissan who died in this unfortunate accident,” Hart said.
A Suffolk police officer saw the gray 2015 Nissan about 11:45 p.m. Saturday in Yaphank, according to Hart.
“A Seventh Precinct police officer observed a Nissan Rogue fail to stop at a stop sign at Yaphank Avenue and Main Street in Yaphank," Hart said. "The officer … attempted to pull over the vehicle but the driver refused to stop.”
The Nissan had been reported stolen Thursday from Montauk Highway in East Patchogue and the license plates had been switched, Hart said.
The officer followed the Nissan while radioing for backup assistance, police said.
Suffolk police did not identify the officer who followed the Nissan, but Chief of Patrol Robert Brown said he was a veteran. Hart said the department has launched an internal investigation to determine if the officer observed department protocols while following the SUV for less than five miles before the crash. Police are also investigating how fast the Nissan and the police vehicle were traveling.
Both vehicles were impounded for safety checks.
The crash comes nearly a year after a fatal collision in Ridge that involved a driver fleeing police. That crash killed five people. Police said Jamel Turner, 24, of Bellport hit speeds topping 150 mph before plowing into the other car. Turner pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder, aggravated-vehicular homicide and other charges last year. His case is pending in state court.
Suffolk police said Sunday that an internal investigation found the officers who pursued Turner had not violated procedures and no changes had been made to the department’s pursuit protocol as a result of the crash. Police declined to release the department’s pursuit protocols Sunday.
Suffolk County Major Case detectives are investigating the Middle Island crash. Anyone with information is urged to call the major case unit at 631-852-6555 or Crime Stoppers at 800-220-8477.
With Chau Lam and David M. Schwartz