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Shinnecock members dead, injured in crash

Two members of the Shinnecock Indian Nation are

Two members of the Shinnecock Indian Nation are mourned after an early-morning fatal car crash near the reservation in Southampton. Two other members were injured. (April 28, 2012) Credit: John Roca

The Shinnecock Indian Nation is mourning after a single-car crash in Southampton Saturday killed two members, including the brother of a top tribal leader, and injured two others.

Jason King, 33, and Duane White, 22, died when the 2009 Lexus GS350 King was driving crashed head-on into a tree about 2:20 a.m. on East Gate Road just outside the tribe's reservation, police said.

Awan Gumbs, 31, was taken to Brookhaven Memorial Hospital Medical Center, and Brian Bess Jr., 18, was airlifted to Stony Brook University Medical Center.

Both had to be extricated from the wreckage by firefighters.

They were in stable condition Saturday night with non-life-threatening injuries, said Southampton Village Police Det. Sgt. Herman Lamison.


Cause being investigated

The cause of the wreck is under investigation, but police said speed was a factor. It wasn't immediately known whether the men were wearing seat belts.

The deaths stunned members of the close-knit Nation, many of whom had watched King and White grow up on the Southampton reservation.

"The entire Nation is in mourning," said tribal trustee chairman Randy King, who lost his younger brother, a tribal council member.

King said his brother "loved his land and loved his people, and I loved him. I'm going to miss him dearly."

Beverly Jensen, spokeswoman for the 1,500-member tribe, said everyone is "heartbroken."

"This hurts all of us," she said. "It's just so hard. Our children are in pain."

At least three of the men involved in the crash are related to current or former tribal leaders. Gumbs is the son of tribal trustee Lance Gumbs, Jensen said, and Bess is related to former trustee Fred Bess.

Lance Gumbs was in New Mexico with other members Saturday for a Gathering of Nations Powwow. The group cut the trip short to come home and mourn with their fellow Shinnecocks, Jensen said.

"When something like this happens to one of us, it hurts all of us," Jensen said.

The Rev. Michael Smith, pastor of Shinnecock Presbyterian Church, said Nation members held a memorial ceremony at the scene of the crash.

"In times of tragedy, we're drawn together," Smith said. "The community is rallying around each other. They are settling into the reality of this tragedy. We're supporting each other."

Smith said some grieving members struggled to control their emotions Saturday. He said it will take time for the Nation to come to grips with its loss.

"Moving forward will be difficult, but we've always managed to overcome before," Smith said.


News 12 Long Island said Saturday that mourners angry at the presence of its crew cursed at reporter Mary McKenzie and videographer Elizabeth Sagarin, threw a bottle at them and fired gunshots into the air.

The journalists, who reported the incident to police, were not hurt.

"We are relieved neither of our staff members were injured, but we are deeply concerned about the incident and will await the outcome of the investigation," said News 12 assistant news director Jim Whiteman.

Southampton Village police would not comment on whether News 12 complained about any incident at the reservation.

With Matthew Chayes

and Candice Ruud

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