Police chase leads to fatal crash in Sayville

June 28, 2011 3:19:35 PM PDT
A pursuit involving two Suffolk County Sheriff's deputies ended in a deadly crash on Long Island Monday.

Mangled beyond recognition, the piles of twisted metal were all that was left of the two cars involved.

The accident happened just before 2 p.m. on the Sunrise Highway Service Road in Sayville.

The suspects, two men and a woman, were wanted for stealing around $4,000 worth of clothing from the True Religion store at Tanger Outlets. They have been identified as 24-year-Cordell Tucker, 26-year-old Rashawn Naquan Smith and 18-year-old Essence Smith.

One witness says the suspects were first spotted in the store at around 11:30 a.m. They then returned at 12:42 p.m., grabbed the clothing and were out of the store by 12:50. They jumped into a car and took off, with Tucker allegedly driving.

A description of the vehicle was put out over police radios by Riverhead police.

A Suffolk County Sherriff's deputy spotted the vehicle on the LIE and tried to get it to pull over, and police say Tucker initially complied. Once the deputies were out of their vehicle, the suspects drove off and a chase ensued.

The suspect's vehicle exited the LIE at exit 64 onto Route 112 South. The chase continued onto the westbound Sunrise Highway Service Road, where the suspect crashed head-on into another vehicle.

Both drivers were injured, but the innocent female passenger of the car not involved in the chase later died at the hospital. She was identified as 62-year-old Gail Sacher.

"It was a horrible accident. You don't expect something like that to happen, especially to a neighbor," said Diane Schneider, the victim's neighbor.

Her husband, 61-year-old Alan Sacher, who was the driver, remains in critical condition.

"They took a life, where did it get them? Where did it get them," Sayville resident William Lee said.

The suspects are charged with criminal possession of stolen property. Smith was also charged with unlawful possession of marijuana. Additional charges will follow pending review with the District Attorney's Office.

"The crash could have been prevented if the suspects stopped, and it's their reckless activity that ultimately caused a loss of life," said Chief Michael Sharkey, of the Suffolk County Sheriff's Office.

But could police have done things differently?

Chief Sharkey says a review of Monday's pursuit will certainly take place, but he says police followed proper procedures.

They had their lights and sirens on; they were in constant communication with a dispatcher; and they could have ended the pursuit if they felt anyone was in danger, but they didn't believe that was the case.

"They had a considerable distance between them and the suspect vehicle at the time that he chose to exit," Sharkey said.

In fact, says the chief, the closest pursuing officer did not even witness the crash that killed a retired teacher, a caring neighbor and a loving wife.

"I pray that they needed to do what they did to get the people they got. You would hate to think that anybody's life was taken when it could have been avoided," said Jill Klein, the victim's neighbor.