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Woman killed in Sandy-related crash with Suffolk officer

A New Jersey woman was killed early Tuesday at a darkened Port Jefferson Station intersection -- where superstorm Sandy had knocked out traffic and streetlights -- when a Suffolk police car struck the vehicle in which she was a passenger, the agency said.

The collision, at Route 347 and Route 112, left Vishwaja Muppa, 21, of Edison, N.J., dead on the scene.

Muppa, a Stony Brook University student, was in the rear seat, one of four passengers in the 2002 Toyota Highlander when it was broadsided by the marked Ford Crown Victoria driven by Sixth Precinct Officer Rene Garcia, at 1:30 a.m., according to Det. Lt. Gail Marrero, commanding officer of the Seventh Precinct Detective Squad.

"They collided in the intersection," Marrero said.

Marrero's squad is handling the case instead of Sixth Precinct Squad detectives because the crash involved one of the precinct's own officers.

At the time of the crash, Garcia did not have his emergency lights on. He was on patrol, having just responded to a storm-related call -- later determined unfounded -- of a fire at Mount Sinai Middle School, Marrero said.

Garcia, a Suffolk police officer for 12 years, was headed westbound on Route 347 when his police unit collided with the Highlander being driven by Amanpreet Dhaliwal, police said.

Dhaliwal, 20, and the three surviving passengers were transported to Stony Brook University Hospital, police said.

Garcia was also taken to Stony Brook, where he was treated and released. He had a concussion, along with injuries to his wrist, lower back, elbow and knees.

Injuries to the Toyota passengers ranged from trauma to a broken pelvis and vertebrae. It does not appear that the rear passengers were wearing seat belts.

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