Cops: Drunken Driver Damages Cemetery

Photo: An alleged drunk driver caused extensive damage to the Temple Adas Israel cemetery on Route 114 near Sag Harbor early Thursday. T.E. McMorrow.

An East Hampton man was charged by East Hampton Town police with drunken driving after crashing through the wooden fence and causing extensive damage at the Temple Adas Israel Cemetery on Route 114 just outside Sag Harbor early Thursday, June 14.

Jose Alberto Tovar Lam, 37, was driving a 2007 Toyota south on Route 114 when, he told the arresting officer, he swerved to avoid hitting a deer. The police said he was driving at an unsafe speed, for which he was issued a citation.

The Toyota Lam was driving went through the fence and traveled about 20 yards before coming to a stop, the police said. The car smashed the corner of a cinderblock utility structure near the entrance to the graveyard, causing structural damage, then snapped a mature pine tree in half, before finally crashing into and over a grave stone, where it came to a stop.

An officer responding to a 911 call said she found Lam conscious, still behind the wheel. Although he complained of neck pain, he was not hospitalized. The Toyota was demolished, police said, and was towed away.

Lam failed sobriety tests, and was placed under arrest, police said. He allegedly refused to take a breath test at headquarters. “I had three beers. That’s it,” he reportedly told police.

In court for his arraignment Thursday, East Hampton Town Justice Steven Tekulsky suspended Lam’s license for a year, pending a hearing at the Department of Motor Vehicles, for refusing to take the breath test.

Lam told the court that he is a caretaker of an estate. Justice Tekulsky released Lam without bail, in recognition of his ties to the community.

“That building has been there for over 100 years. Nothing has ever happened to it before,” said Howard Chwatsky, chairman of the cemetery committee for the temple, where he also is a trustee. He said the building is currently used for storage. The cemetery is uninsured, he said.

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