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Jan 2, 2018 2:09 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

PSEG Officials Will Investigate Deadly Eastport Crash

Jan 2, 2018 3:20 PM

PSEG Long Island officials say they are investigating a single-vehicle crash that killed a man who drove into one of the nearly 90-foot-tall metal poles installed in Eastport last spring, though they would not comment further, citing the potential for litigation.

Matthew Hillebrand, 47, of Babylon was driving a 2009 Hyundai Santa Fe on December 11 when it veered off the roadway and crashed into a pole. Mr. Hillebrand, who was unconscious after the crash, was pulled from his vehicle by Suffolk County Deputy Sheriff Lieutenant Salvatore Petrone and Good Samaritans, just before flames engulfed the vehicle.

Later that day, Mr. Hillebrand died at Stony Brook University Hospital.

With more than 500,000 utility poles set up to provide power to customers across a 1,400-square-mile service territory, PSEG said the annual number of motor vehicle accidents involving utility poles has averaged 1,000 since 2014.

But this is the first crash involving one of the new, larger metal poles that drew criticism from some Eastport residents because of their size, appearance and proximity to the road, among other concerns.

In a letter to Suffolk County Department of Public Works Commissioner Gilbert Anderson on December 28, Brookhaven Town Supervisor Edward P. Romaine lamented “the danger these poles now present to the motoring public,” referring to the poles erected along County Road 55 and County Road 51 between Eastport and Riverhead.

“Unlike wooden poles, which often snap when struck, these poles do not, increasing the severity of injuries from any car that hits them,” Mr. Romaine wrote. He added that some of the poles are only about 3 feet away from the shoulder.

He wrote that PSEG did not notify the property owners near the route before the poles were erected, nor did its officials conduct an appropriate State Environmental Quality Review Act survey for the project.

In the letter, Mr. Romaine said that at a Long Island Power Authority trustees meeting on December 19, Trustee Matthew Cordaro noted that “the use of steel transmission poles, which carry higher voltages than distribution panels, are a danger on public roadways.”

Mr. Romaine also quoted Roy Reynolds, president of the East Moriches Property Owners Association: “Good engineering practice, as well as highway construction regulations, require the designers of roadways and utility poles to take into account the inevitability of vehicles leaving the roadway, and to design any structures so as to provide a reasonable protection in this event.”

Mr. Romaine asked Suffolk County Legislators Bridget Fleming and Al Krupski for an investigation into the Suffolk County Department of Public Works review process that led to the approval of the poles.

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