A Bad Week for Jitneys

Traffic came to a standstill as residents and visitors encountered highway delays stemming from last Thursday’s fatal collision between a Hampton Jitney Ambassador bus and a Chevrolet TrailBlazer near the Shinnecock Golf Course in Southampton. Doug Kuntz

    South Fork roads saw numerous accidents this past week. The worst, a fatal crash on County Road 39A in Southampton last Thursday involving a mother of two from Shirley who crashed into the front of a Hampton Jitney Ambassador coach, tied up traffic for almost 12 hours.

    “It was terrible to see,” said a witness, Jim Cimberdella of Ridge, who was driving east at the time, about 7 a.m. Mr. Cimberdella spoke that afternoon as he waited to be interviewed by Southampton detectives at their Hampton Bays headquarters.

    “She hit the bus so hard,” he said. “She was doing maybe 60.” The victim, Carissa Castillo, was pronounced dead at the scene.

    The bus was headed west, empty except for the driver, George Scheld, and an attendant, Shimona Kameka. Mr. Scheld was treated and released from Southampton Hospital, relatively unhurt, but Ms. Kameka suffered a fractured leg. She has since been released.

    According to the witness, Ms. Castillo was headed east and the bus was going west, “in the slow lane,” when Ms. Castillo turned or veered sharply toward St. Andrew’s Road. “She was turning toward the golf course,” Mr. Cimberdella said.
    The impact of the crash shattered the front windows of the jitney and left Ms. Castillo’s 2004 Chevrolet Trailblazer a flattened hulk.

    Drivers were forced to detour around the accident scene for most of the day, north of the highway to narrow roads winding around the golf courses. The eastbound lanes were eventually reopened, but the westbound lanes remained closed into the early evening, causing massive delays as far east as Amagansett.

    On Monday at about 5 a.m., another Hampton Jitney bus was involved in an accident, also on County Road 39, the so-called Southampton bypass. The other vehicle was a westbound garbage truck driven by Ezio Vessella, 45. According to Southampton police, the jitney, with Quincy Lassiter, 53, of Central Islip at the wheel, was pulling out of the Omni, the Jitney headquarters, when the vehicles collided.

    The bus driver was taken to Southampton Hospital and treated for minor injuries, but Mr. Vessella was not so fortunate. From Southampton Hospital, he was airlifted to Stony Brook University Hospital, where his condition was described as serious but not life-threatening.

    Again, traffic in both directions was tied up for hours as police investigated the cause of the accident.

    There were three other recent incidents on the roads involving trips to the hospital. On July 22 on Star Island Road in Montauk, a 2006 Jeep driven by a Springs man struck a deer. The driver, Michael Hedl, 27, was treated for cuts to his left hand and arm.

    An East Hampton Town police car driven by an on-duty officer, Ryan Fink, struck the back tire of a bicycle on July 19 on South Edgemere Road in Montauk, knocking the cyclist, Alessia Williams, 16, of Montauk to the ground. According to the report, though the girl declined medical attention at the scene, she was taken to the hospital for a checkup.

    A three-car collision on Friday morning at the tricky intersection of Bluff Road and Montauk Highway in Amagansett sent a driver and her passenger to the hospital.

    Amanda Freidus, 29, of New York City was attempting to turn left from Bluff onto the highway, according to the police report, when her 1995 Jeep was struck by an eastbound 1995 Honda driven by Oliva Cabezas, 39, of Springs. The impact propelled both vehicles into a 2005 Dodge driven by David Elze, 59, of Amagansett, which was merging onto the highway from Cranberry Hole Road.

    Ms. Cabezas and Marisol Flores, 36, were treated for minor injuries and released.

Another accident in Southampton involving a Hampton Jitney and, this time, a garbage truck, sent both drivers to the hospital and snarled traffic again on Monday morning. Doug Kuntz
The collision between the Hampton Jitney Ambassador and the Chevrolet TrailBlazer last Thursday morning killed the car’s driver, who was traveling at about 60 miles per hour, according to police. Doug Kuntz