Two people were killed and two others injured after the car they were traveling in crashed, then was struck by an SUV as it sat in the HOV lane of the Long Island Expressway during a teeming rainstorm Monday night in Old Westbury, police said.
The crash took place just minutes after the initial accident on the westbound expressway between exits 40 and 39, at about 11 p.m., said Nassau Det. Sgt. James Skopek, of the Nassau Homicide Squad, which investigates traffic fatalities.
Nassau police Tuesday would not identify the SUV driver, who they said was not going to be charged criminally. But law enforcement sources identified him as an off-duty NYPD highway patrol officer. When contacted by phone, he had no comment.
The car that was struck, a BMW, with four young people inside, had crashed into a guardrail, careened across the lanes of traffic, struck the median and came to a stop in the HOV lane, Skopek said.
The four people in the BMW then got out of the car, Skopek said, and then the SUV driver, in a 2016 GMC Yukon, struck the two victims who died and the BMW. The two other victims were hospitalized with minor injuries.
The Yukon driver, 33, had minor injuries and was taken to the hospital for treatment, police said.
It was not immediately clear what role the weather might have played in the accidents. The investigation into the cause of both crashes is continuing.
But Skopek described the conditions as “terrible, terrible weather, the rain, limited lighting, very dark in that part of the expressway.”
Skopek said “some of the lights may have not been illuminated. Is that a regular thing or is the weather condition that caused that, I don’t know.”
He added: “It was bad last night. It was nasty.”
Skopek stressed there was no apparent criminality.
“We conferenced this with the district attorney’s office,” said Skopek. “There was a rep from the district attorney’s office there. There is no indication at this time that there was any criminality at all — nothing.”
The BMW driver, a 20-year-old man from Queens, was thrown over the median and was found in the far eastbound side of the expressway and pronounced dead at the scene, Skopek said.
An 18-year-old upstate woman, who was a BMW passenger, was transported to Nassau University Medical Center in East Meadow, where police said she was pronounced dead.
The two surviving BMW passengers, an 18-year-old woman and a 19-year-old man, were taken to the hospital with minor injuries, Skopek said. One is from Brooklyn and the other is from Queens, he said.
Police said the identities of the victims have been withheld pending notifications of next of kin. The vehicles were impounded for safety checks, police said.
“It’s a tragic, tragic accident for these two young people and our hearts go out to the families,” said Skopek, who asked any witness to the crashes to contact police.
The crash closed the eastbound lanes of the LIE until 3:30 a.m. Tuesday and the westbound lanes until 5:15 a.m.
Skopek advised anyone in an accident to stay inside their vehicle, to try to move to a safe place and put on their hazard lights.
With John Valenti and Anthony M. DeStefano
Here’s what to do if your vehicle becomes disabled in a high-traffic area:
Turn on your vehicle’s hazard lights.
If possible, safely move your vehicle off the road away from traffic.
Stay inside your vehicle once it is off the road and make all passengers stay inside, too. Keep doors locked.
If you’re unable to get off the roadway, get out of the vehicle and stand in a safe place about 60 feet away from the rear of it. That way the traffic sees you before they see your car.
Don a reflective vest, raise the vehicle’s hood, tie a white cloth to a door handle or use reflective triangles or flares.
Set triangles or flares up behind the disabled car to alert approaching motorists.
New York’s “move over” law requires motorists to move away at least one lane from fire, road repair and other emergency vehicles when safe.
The stats: 67 pedestrians were killed on Interstates in New York from 2010 to 2015; about one-third of those deaths can be attributed to vehicle breakdowns. The equivalent figure for the nation is 2,449.
Source: AAA New York, New York State law