There has been a rash of serious hit-and-run accidents in Suffolk County of late, and Suffolk District Attorney Thomas Spota says that its time that something is done to hold the driver's fully accountable for their actions.
Spota is calling for tougher penalties for those who flee the scene of an accident that results in death or serious injury — like the driver who fatally struck Sister Jackie Walsh in Water Mill on July 9, 2012.
Walsh, a Catholic nun from Syosset, was staying at a Sisters of Mercy retreat house when she went out for a walk and was fatally struck by a vehicle that authorities say was being driven by Carlos Armando Ixpec-Chitay. Ixpec-Chitay, is believed to have fled the country to avoid prosecution.
Others, however, are arrested within days of an accident — after evidence that could be used against the drivers is gone.
Those who flee, Spota said, make it impossible to not only help the victim immediately, but to determine if the drivers were intoxicated or impaired by drugs.
"People just aren't stopping anymore," Spota said during a press conference Wednesday at the Suffolk County Criminal Court in Riverside. "There should be more serious consequences for leaving the scene."
"This is an epidemic," he said, outlining a number of hit-and-runs in Suffolk over the past few weeks. "They're beating the system," he said of the drivers. "We need immediate legislative action."
On Dec. 28, a man celebrating his 50th birthday was killed in Riverhead while crossing East Main Street. Joseph Plummer, 48, of Middle Island, was arrested Jan. 2 and charged with a felony count of leaving the scene of an accident. Spota said Plummer had been drinking vodka all day.
Alejandro Padilla, 24, of Bay Shore, was arrested Dec. 22, hours after authorities say he rear ended Zenaida Falcon's vehicle, sending it into a utility pole. Falcon died of her injuries the next day. Padilla face a litany of charges, including second degree manslaughter.
Kristofer Busching, 25, of North Babylon, was arrested earlier this month after a New Year's Eve accident in which authorities say he seriously injured a pedestrian, 17-year-old Ryan McCarthy, on Udall Road in West Islip. According to Spota's office, Busching conspired with two others to stage another crash to cover up the original accident. Among the charges leveled at
Busching are felony counts of assault and leaving the scene of an accident.
“There is no reconciling the disparity that occurs when drivers who remain at the scene after causing an accident face the possibility of a more severe punishment under our law than drivers who flee," Spota said. "I urge our state legislators to change the law now.”
With reporting by Lisa Finn.