An 80-year-old man was accidentally killed by his wife Saturday morning when she backed over him in a pickup truck outside a garden show at the Westhampton Beach High School.
Ernie Davis of Westhampton was pinned underneath his 2009 GMC pickup truck after his wife, Diane Herold, backed over him while he was attempting to guide her into a parking space outside the school at about 9:30 a.m.
Westhampton Beach Police arrived on scene at 9:35 a.m., within a few minutes of the initial 911 call, Police Chief Trevor Gonce said. The Westhampton Beach Fire Department and Westhampton War Memorial Ambulance Corps arrived shortly thereafter to free Mr. Davis, who had been pinned under the vehicle, and transport him to Peconic Bay Medical Center in Riverhead where he died from his injuries.
Chief Gonce deferred comment to Village Police Detective Ed Hamor on specific details, such as how long Mr. Davis was trapped under the car, what injuries he suffered and who called 911.
Detective Hamor was not available for comment this week.
Ms. Herold, 69, was not charged with a crime and the incident is not being treated as a criminal investigation at this time, according to a press release issued by authorities over the weekend.
Mr. Davis and Ms. Herold were at the high school for the garden show, which was organized by the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County in Riverhead, to teach a class on how to build flower boxes.
Brett Davis of Broadlands, Virginia, Mr. Davis’s son, said Ms. Herold was distraught because of the incident.
Ernie Davis, the former owner of Blue Point-based Davis Brothers Engineering, was well known throughout eastern Long Island as one of the region’s premier building movers. He and Ms. Herold, an architect, worked tandem on so many projects that they were known as a “dynamic duo” around Westhampton Beach Village Hall, Village Building and Zoning Administrator Paul Houlihan said this week.
“She would do the architectural plans and he would do the lifting—they were a great team,” Mr. Houlihan said. “We saw them just last month at the [Village] Planning Board meeting.
“We’re just in shock and we’re heartbroken here in the building department,” he continued.
Born in Port Jefferson on November 23, 1934, Mr. Davis, along with his brother, the late Curtis “Bud” Davis, took over the family business from their father, also named Curtis Davis, in the early 1960s. But Ernie Davis had spent almost his entire life working with and shadowing his father, according to his son, taking only two years off from the business while he served in the U.S. Army in Fort Bliss, Texas, from 1955 to 1957.
During the course of his career, he developed a reputation for tackling tasks that other movers shied away from and doing them based solely on a handshake, Brett Davis said. His father also developed a signature move: he would place a glass of water on a table in a house he was about to move and guarantee that not a drop would be spilled or else he’d give the person their money back.
“It was artistic expression for him,” Brett Davis said. “He was like Jackson Pollock in the building moving business.”
Aram Terchunian, owner of Westhampton Beach-based environmental consulting firm First Coastal, said Ernie Davis helped show him the ropes when he was first entered the coastal construction industry 30 years ago.
“Ernie was a great, great guy,” Mr. Terchunian said. “Helping … honest, I can’t say enough good things about him.”
Mr. Davis was also an avid outdoorsman and a member of the Pattersquash Duck Hunting Club on Bellport Bay, a director of the St. Regis Hunting and Fishing Club in the Adirondacks, and a member of the Peconic River Sports Club, Ducks Unlimited, the Quogue Wildlife Refuge and the Westhampton Beach Yacht Squadron.
Anthony Bonner, owner of Westhampton-based Sea Level Construction, formed a close relationship with Mr. Davis not only through collaborations on projects, but also over countless hours spent fishing off Montauk Point and shucking shellfish behind Mr. Bonner’s Westhampton home.
Mr. Bonner said he considered Mr. Davis a second father. “The guy was a true gentleman,” Mr. Bonner said. “When you shook his hand you got a vibe through your entire body.”
In addition to Ms. Herold and his son Brett, Mr. Davis is survived by two daughters, Ellen George and her husband Steve, of Port Murray, New Jersey; Heather Baker and her husband Mark, of Redondo Beach, California; and eight grandchildren, Jodie and Kristin Davis; Kelsey, Jake and Holly George; and Baron, Daisy and Violet Baker.