A 44-year-old Southampton man was struck and killed while crossing County Road 39 early Friday morning, as he was walking to get picked up for his job at a potato farm in East Hampton, according to authorities and the victim’s family.
Paulino Zeledon Hernandez was crossing the four-lane highway, near the Burger King, at around 6:20 a.m. when he was struck by a Volkswagen being driven by Melinda Rubin, a 52-year-old immigration attorney from Sag Harbor, according to Southampton Town Police.
Authorities said he was walking across the westbound lane when he was hit by Ms. Rubin. He was pronounced dead at the scene at 6:30 p.m., police said.
No charges or traffic citations have been filed against Ms. Rubin, according to Town Police Sergeant Susan Ralph, who explained that detectives have not found any evidence of criminality. Sgt. Ralph added that Ms. Rubin was “distraught” after the accident, but uninjured.
Ms. Rubin did not return a call seeking comment this week.
The fatal crash forced the closure of County Road 39, between Sandy Hollow and North Sea roads, for more than three hours on Friday morning. The eastbound lanes reopened at around 9:45 a.m., and the scene was cleared by 11 a.m. The accident resulted in massive traffic delays in both directions.
Mr. Hernandez immigrated to the United States from Nicaragua about five years ago and though he did not have any immediate relatives on the East End, he is survived by several family members—including a daughter—in Nicaragua, according to his former sister-in-law, Melva Ruiz, who lives in Southampton.
She is now trying to raise enough funds to transport Mr. Hernandez’s body back to his native country for burial.
“I have very good memories about him,” Ms. Ruiz said on Tuesday. “He was a very nice man. Everybody is very, very sorry to hear what happened.”
At the time of his death, Mr. Hernandez was working on a potato farm in East Hampton, Ms. Ruiz said, though she could not recall the name of the business. She explained that he walked each morning to get picked up and taken to work, which is why he was out so early this past Friday.
Mr. Hernandez was married to Ms. Ruiz’s sister, Sandra Guerr, for about five years. The two had separated about a year ago, according to Ms. Ruiz, though both she and her sister still kept in contact with him.
Mr. Hernandez’s family in Nicaragua contacted the sisters over the weekend and asked them for help in trying to ship his body back home. Those interested in making a donation are asked to call Ms. Ruiz at (631) 276-9159. Donations can also be dropped off at the Hispanic Apostolate, which operates from the Basilica Parish of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary Roman Catholic Church on Hill Street in Southampton Village.
“He was such a nice, hard-working man,” Ms. Ruiz said.