A driver was speeding about 106 miles per hour — more than triple the speed limit — moments before causing the head-on crash that killed five in Quogue this summer, police said.
Quogue Village Police released the data from the Event Data Recorders, commonly known as the black box, of both vehicles, which showed 22-year-old Justin Mendez of Brookhaven drove his Nissan Maxima westbound on Montauk Highway at that speed 3.5 seconds before veering into the opposite lane of traffic and colliding with an eastbound Toyota Prius at 11:19 p.m. on July 24. The black box in Mendez’s Maxima showed no indication of braking before the crash, police added.
“I did not realize until after my headlights had illuminated the vehicle that the red car had no lights on and was completely blacked out,” a witness told investigators, according to police. “When this vehicle passed me, it appeared as the vehicle was traveling at over 100 miles per hour, which sounded like a race car, taking my breath away. Next, I saw a police car with the emergency lights on around 100 yards or 10–15 seconds behind the red car, with the police car not making any headway or closing the distance between them.”
Because police officers had been trying to pull over Mendez shortly before the crash, the New York State Attorney General’s office reviewed the evidence, but found that there was no reason to pursue action against the officer, authorities said.
The speed of the Toyota Prius at the time of collision was 38 mph approximately 4 seconds prior to impact with braking, police added. The Uber driver behind the wheel of the Prius, 32-year-old Farhan Zahid of Bay Shore, and three of his passengers were pronounced dead at the scene. The passengers included three Manhasset men: 25-year-old Ryan Kiess, 20-year-old Michael Farrell, and his 25-year-old brother, James Farrell. Mendez died shortly after the crash. A Garden City woman in the Prius, who was seriously injured, was the lone survivor.
A GoFundMe page was also set up for the woman and Zahid, a married father of three. And the father of the brothers previously put Suffolk County on notice that he plans to file a $40 million lawsuit for alleged negligence for not building a barrier between the two lanes of traffic.