Pair Of Bus Accidents On County Road 39 Leaves One Dead, Four Injured

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A pair of horrific accidents—both involving Hampton Jitney buses—in just four days along County Road 39 in Southampton claimed the life of a 29-year-old mother of two, sent four others to the hospital with serious injuries and shut down all lanes of traffic along the East End’s main artery for nearly 14 hours combined.

The first crash, which occurred between Tuckahoe Lane and Tuckahoe Road a few minutes after 7 a.m. last Thursday, July 25, was a head-on collision between a Jitney bus that was carrying no passengers and a Chevrolet Trailblazer. The driver of the SUV, identified by Southampton Town Police as 29-year-old Carissa Castillo of Shirley, was killed in the crash that left her car smashed and nearly unrecognizable.

The bus attendant, Shimona Kameka, 36, of Southampton and the driver, George Scheld, 54, of Nesconset were both taken by the Southampton Volunteer Ambulance to Southampton Hospital where they were treated for non-life threatening injuries.

Southampton Town Police Detective Sergeant Lisa Costa said on Tuesday that it appears that Ms. Castillo veered to the left while speeding to work in Southampton Village, crossing the double-yellow lines and hitting the westbound Jitney head-on. She was pronounced dead at the scene.

“Preliminary investigation reveals that she was driving aggressively and late for work,” Sgt. Costa wrote in an email, though she did not immediately say where in Southampton Village Ms. Castillo was heading at the time.

The accident closed both sections of highway for nearly nine hours, creating a traffic backlog that endured well into the afternoon rush hour.

The second crash also involved an empty Hampton Jitney bus, which was pulling out of the company parking lot near David Whites Lane at 4:37 a.m. on Monday when it was struck by a westbound National Waste Services garbage truck being driven by 45-year-old Ezio Vessella of Farmingdale, according to authorities.

Mr. Vessella was airlifted to Stony Brook University Hospital and treated for what authorities called non-life threatening injuries, while the driver of the bus—Quincy Lassiter, 53, of Central Islip—was taken by Southampton Volunteer Ambulance to Southampton Hospital for treatment of minor injuries. He was released later that morning.

An investigation of the scene by the Suffolk County Police Motor Carrier Safety Unit revealed that the garbage truck was overweight, resulting in a citation being issued to National Waste Services, which has offices in Bay Shore.

National Waste Services officials did not return calls this week seeking comment.

After last Thursday’s accident, Hampton Jitney Vice President Andrew Lynch confirmed that there weren’t any passengers aboard the bus when it was hit by Ms. Castillo. He did not immediately return calls following the second accident involving one of his company’s buses.

Sgt. Costa said that no criminal charges have been filed in relation to either crash.

The first accident scattered debris and car fluids across a half-mile stretch of County Road 39, Sgt. Costa said, requiring the road to be closed from 7 a.m. until about 4 p.m. on July 25 while investigators with the New York State Police, Suffolk County Police Motor Carrier Unit and New York State Department of Transportation Motor Carrier Unit all responded to and investigated the scene. The closure essentially brought Hamptons traffic to a halt east of the Shinnecock Canal as Town Police and Southampton Village Fire Department officials attempted to redirect westbound traffic to Sebonac Road and eastbound traffic to Montauk Highway.

Southampton Town Director of Public Transportation and Traffic Safety Thomas Neely said he received dozens of calls and emails throughout the day on July 25 from concerned citizens who were inconvenienced by the traffic, which did not 
dissipate until well into the evening. Mr. Neely and Town Police officials had little advice to offer other than preaching patience as drivers stewed in traffic for hours.

Monday’s crash, which occurred several miles east of the previous accident, took less time to clear and caused considerably less traffic. The road was officially reopened at 9:11 a.m.—less than five hours after the crash—and drew just one public inquiry, Mr. Neely said.

Chris Brenner, the public information officer for the Southampton Fire Department, said his department received a call at about 7:05 a.m. on July 25 regarding the fatal accident and dispatched several vehicles and about 30 firefighters within minutes. After arriving at the scene, firefighters helped control traffic, cleaned up the fluids and extricated Ms. Castillo’s body using the Jaws of Life—a process that took between 10 and 15 minutes, Mr. Brenner said.

“We had a heavy rescue unit, a pumper, a mini pumper, two fire police trucks, a captain’s truck and two chief’s trucks on the scene,” Mr. Brenner said, adding that the department remained on the scene until approximately 12:45 p.m.

Police are still investigating both accidents.

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