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Driver stopped on shoulder of Sunrise Highway killed when her car is rammed from behind, police say

Vehicles turn around the westbound Sunrise Highway and

Vehicles turn around the westbound Sunrise Highway and head eastbound the westbound lanes as police closed off the highway between exits 44-43 in Bay Shore after a crash Wednesday afternoon around 12:35 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 29, 2014. Photo Credit: James Carbone

A woman sitting inside her disabled car stopped on the shoulder of Sunrise Highway in Bay Shore was killed Wednesday when another vehicle hit her from behind, Suffolk police said.

Jessica Ortiz, 21, of Deer Park was stopped on the highway's westbound side, just west of Exit 43, Fifth Avenue, at about 12:36 p.m. when her car was struck, police said.

A flatbed tow truck had pulled up in front of the victim's vehicle, police said, when a Chevy Caprice, driven by Raymond Reinhardt, 51, ran into the back of Ortiz's car.

Ortiz's car then struck the back of the tow truck, police said. She was taken to Southside Hospital in Bay Shore, where she was pronounced dead, police said.

"She was a very intelligent girl," her distraught father, Charles Ortiz, said. "She had her whole future ahead of her . . . she knew her goals in life."

Police said Ortiz had called the tow truck after her vehicle broke down. Charles Ortiz said Wednesday night that his daughter's car had gotten a flat tire on her way home from school at St. Joseph's College in Patchogue, where she was studying to be a psychologist.

She would have graduated shortly after her 22nd birthday in May, her father said.

Charles Ortiz said her daughter called him to tell him about the flat, then again to let him know a tow truck was on its way. That was the last he heard from her.

"I called and called and called and I got no response, and I wanted to make sure she was safe," he said. "I had a hundred things going through my brain -- is she OK? And then a detective comes to my job and gives me the news, and I was devastated."

A police spokeswoman said the investigation is continuing and no charges have been filed. Reinhardt has prior convictions for driving-related misdemeanors and infractions, records show.

Ortiz said his daughter was an active young woman who was good-hearted and determined. She grew up in Deer Park, he said, and also leaves behind her mother and two sisters.

"She had her whole future ahead of her. This was just very -- a freak something, out of a nightmare," her father said. "I can't really wrap my head around it right now."

Reinhardt, of West Islip, also was taken to Southside Hospital, where he was in critical but stable condition, police said. The driver of the tow truck was not injured.

With John Valenti


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