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Sunrise Highway wrong-way driver arrested

Police say Ralph Cerullo crashed his 2008 Infiniti

Police say Ralph Cerullo crashed his 2008 Infiniti while driving the wrong-way on Sunrise Highway just after midnight Friday, Nov. 4, 2010. Credit: Handout

A wrong-way driver - Long Island's third in the past three weeks - sped at 100 mph for at least four minutes before crashing the Dowling College-owned vehicle into a median guardrail as sheriff's deputies forced him off the highway and arrested him on drunken- and reckless-driving charges early Friday morning, authorities said.

Police stopped Ralph Cerullo, of East Setauket, at 12:01 a.m. Friday, but only after he tried to evade two deputies who blocked his path and forced him onto the highway median, said Suffolk County Chief Deputy Michael Sharkey.

Cerullo, 54, is Dowling College's chief financial officer, a law enforcement source said.

Sharkey said police received 13 911 calls, the first at 11:57 p.m. Thursday, about a driver speeding west in the eastbound lanes of Sunrise Highway.

The deputies tried to pull over Cerullo's 2008 Infiniti, but he swerved around the marked police cars, which had their sirens and emergency lights on, Sharkey said. After Cerullo swerved, he entered the grassy median, then struck a guardrail near Exit 49, police said. The first 911 call reported that the Infiniti was at Exit 54, Sharkey said. The distance between the two exits is about six to seven miles.

Cerullo was charged with driving while intoxicated, reckless driving, reckless endangerment and unlawfully fleeing, police said. He was held for hours Friday at Suffolk County Correctional Facility in Riverside on $100,000 bond or $50,000 cash until being released late at night.

Cerullo told officers he had just left a holiday party at the Bellport Country Club, the law-enforcement source said.

Gerald Curtin, a 12-year trustee at Dowling College, said Cerullo had been a positive force at the school. "The work he has put in over the last six months has been outstanding," Curtin said.

The Infiniti is registered to Dowling College, police said.

"Had he not been stopped, Mr. Cerullo undoubtedly would have caused serious injury to himself and other motorists," Suffolk Sheriff Vincent DeMarco said.

A Nov. 15 wrong-way crash on the Northern State Parkway killed New York City Police Officer Andre Menzies, 35, of North Babylon. On Nov. 16, a wrong-way driver on the Long Island Expressway hit another car head-on and sustained minor injuries.

With Matthew Chayes

and Deborah S. Morris

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