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Aug 1, 2012 10:28 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Cops: Driver Involved In Crash That Caused Giant Traffic Jam Still In Intensive Care

Aug 1, 2012 11:35 AM

A head-on collision on County Road 39 last Tuesday, July 24, resulted in one motorist being airlifted to the hospital and snarled South Fork traffic for more than six hours during the evening commute, as the road was closed in both directions while police investigated the crash. The event left many motorists wondering why the road was closed for so long, and why police didn’t have a plan to keep traffic flowing.

This week, Southampton Town Police Detective Sergeant Lisa Costa said many factors were at play in the road closure, which she said lasted exactly five hours and 40 minutes.

“County Road 39 was completely strewn with a huge amount of vehicle debris and an oil slick, making the roadway dangerous and impossible for passing,” Det. Sgt. Costa wrote in an email response to several questions. “In addition, it rained, making the roadway even more slick and dangerous.”

One driver suffered serious injuries and had to be extracted carefully from his vehicle by members of the Southampton Fire Department, she said. “The scene had to be made safe, as it was also the landing zone for the Suffolk County helicopter and the transport of the victim to Stony Brook [University] Hospital,” she wrote.

Town Police detectives, with the assistance of the New York State Police Forensic Unit, “conducted a thorough investigation involving accident reconstruction, as it may have resulted in a fatality,” she continued.

Rapid Recovery Towing responded with a heavy-duty rig to remove the dump truck, but one of the truck’s axles was about to snap and posed a safety hazard, she said. “Workers had to cut the axle so that the heavily damaged truck could be towed safely,” she said.

Finally, crews from the Suffolk County Department of Public Works, Southampton Fire Department and Town fire marshals had to make the road clean, dry and safe for vehicular traffic.

Police did not address a question about what could be done in the future to try to prevent a similar traffic tie-up.

One of the motorists involved in the crash remains in intensive care and could stay hospitalized for several months, police said this week.

Raymond Wordsdale, 70, of Bridgehampton was driving a 2012 Mercedes-Benz eastbound on County Road 39 near Inlet Road just east of the start of Sunrise Highway shortly before 2 p.m. last Tuesday, July 24, when he crossed over into the oncoming lane of westbound traffic, colliding with a roll-off Crown Sanitation garbage truck, a 2004 Western Star, being driven by Benjamin Maisonave Jr., 49, of Coram, Det. Sgt. Costa said.

Mr. Wordsdale was extracted from his vehicle and airlifted to Stony Brook University Hospital following the crash with what police described this week as life-threatening injuries. His car was totaled.

Mr. Maisonave, who refused medical treatment at the scene, was issued several citations, including one for driving with a suspended registration, a misdemeanor, by the New York State Police Motor Carrier Unit, which responded to inspect the truck.

Police could not explain what caused Mr. Wordsdale to veer into oncoming traffic.

The closure of eastbound and westbound lanes of one of only two east-west thoroughfares—the other being Montauk Highway—turned side streets into miles-long parking lots for more than six hours. The crash was called in at 1:56 p.m. and the road was opened sometime before 7:44 p.m.

Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst called the major traffic jam a wake-up call.

“That was probably one of the biggest eye-openers for us. We all realize that we are a bottleneck out here.” Ms. Throne-Holst said, speaking at a hurricane preparedness seminar last Thursday, July 26, in Bridgehampton. “What made it particularly difficult was that both eastbound and westbound lanes were closed off because of the gravity of the accident, and higher authorities than our police department had to come in for investigative purposes.”

As a result of the crash, the supervisor said, the town decided to join the CodeRED alert system, a high-speed notification network run by Suffolk County. Residents who sign up would receive pre-recorded messages regarding emergencies.

Motorists stranded in the gridlock last week spoke of tempers rising. In one case, a 63-year-old man sitting in traffic heading west on Ox Pasture Road in Southampton Village said he was beaten unconscious by three women wearing bathing suits shortly after 7 p.m. when he tried to stop them from passing traffic on the left. Southampton Village Police said they drove the victim to Southampton Hospital because an ambulance would not have been able to make it through the traffic. The trio of attackers somehow fled the scene, police said.

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Thanks for the update. Surprising that SH Town had not previously joined the County's CodeRED alert system?

Perhaps one benefit of this situation, is that the East End will accelerate the implementation of the Peconic Bay Regional Transportation Authority (exact name TBD), and get shuttle trains running ASAP from at least Speonk to East Hampton and back, with increased North/South interconnected bus feeder lines. Better yet, Babylon to Montauk?

Our over-dependence on highways and ...more
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Aug 1, 12 11:40 AM
1 member liked this comment
PBR is absolutely correct regarding dependence on cars. The Napeague stretch was closed for two or three hours a few years ago for an accident involving multiple fatalities.
By Rich Morey (378), Brooklyn on Aug 1, 12 2:21 PM
1 member liked this comment
The problem is a dependence on a confined space.

I don't know how to put it any plainer than that...
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Aug 1, 12 10:36 PM
the problem is everybody has an agenda. everyone dances noboby hears the band.
By patrickstar (67), hampton bays on Aug 3, 12 4:11 PM
I went to Hampton Bays around 6:30 pm from North Sea....I didn't see 1 policemen....I thought it was odd ...such a big mess and not policemen :(
By Bel (86), southampton on Aug 3, 12 8:39 PM
drinking, drugs, cell phones and text-ing are all recipes for disaster on the roads these days. It's frightening. We must stop.
By dawn22 (6), Southampton on Aug 5, 12 5:53 PM