Car speeding at 106 MPH in Quogue crash, cops say

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Car speeding at 106 MPH in Quogue crash, cops say
James Farrell, left, and Ryan Kiess, right, were killed in a high-speed car crash in Quogue in July. (Left photo from Steve Cunha, University of Pennsylvania/Right photo courtesy of the University of Scranton)

The driver who rammed into an oncoming Uber in Quogue was speeding at more than 100 MPH before the collision that killed himself and four others, police said Friday.

Justin Mendez, 22, of Brookhaven, slammed into the for-hire car at 86 MPH on a curve of the Montauk Highway on July 24, Quogue police said in a press release. 

His speed just 3 ½ seconds before the head-on crash was 106 MPH, police said, citing data that the New York State Police recovered from the black box in Mendez’s Nissan Maxima.

The data showed no indication that Mendez applied his brakes before the crash, according to police. Cops also released an account from a witness who said Mendez did not have his lights on before the late-night collision.

“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,” said the witness, who was driving east on the two lane road, according to the Quogue Police Department. “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.”

Among the five fatalities were three Manhasset men, including brothers Michael and James Farrell, 20 and 25 years old, and Ryan Kiess, also 25. Thousands attended their wakes and funerals following a series of deaths in the Manhasset community.

Also killed was the Uber driver, Farhan Zahid, 32, of Bay Shore, who had been driving with the ride-hailing company for almost two years.  Black-box data also recovered by State Police showed he slowed his Toyota Prius to 27 MPH from 38 MPH four seconds before the crash, according to Quogue police.

Brianna Maglio, Kiess’ girlfriend and 24 years old at the time of the crash, is the sole survivor of the accident. As of early September, she remained hospitalized in critical condition, but not before over 1,500 people participated in a running challenge to raise money for her medical expenses.

At a press conference days after the crash, Quogue Chief of Police Christopher Isola said an officer spotted Mendez before the accident, but could not catch up to him. The witness described to police a similar chain of events.

“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 of closing the distance between them,” the witness said. 

After reviewing the incident, the State Attorney General’s Office concluded there was no reason to pursue action against the police officer, according to the press release. The accident remains under investigation.

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