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The driver in the fatal Long Island crash that left him and four others dead was trying to outrun cops at the time — and had turned off his headlights seconds before the collision, police said.
Justin Mendez also had “a quantity of marijuana” in his car when he slammed into the Uber vehicle, killing four people inside, Quogue Police Chief Chris Isola said at a press conference Tuesday.
“The officer spots Mendez 1,000 feet inside the village of Quogue, heading west,” Isola said. “There’s a sharp turn. The officer had a very brief view of the vehicle. He very quickly loses sight and never catches up.”
He said the cop turned on his overhead lights just “several seconds” before the deadly crash — but added, “there was no chase.”
“The officer attempted to gain a view of the vehicle,” the chief said.
The Saturday night crash in Quogue killed five people, including Uber driver Farhan Zahid, 32, and three of his passengers — among them brothers Michael Farrell, 20, and James Farrell, 25, according to police.
Another passenger in Zahid’s Toyota Prius, 25-year-old Ryan Kiess, was also killed, and Kiess’ girlfriend, Brianna Maglio, 22, is in critical condition at Peconic Bay Medical Center.
Mendez, 22, was also killed after his Nissan Maxima crossed the center line on Montauk Highway around 11:15 p.m. and slammed into the Toyota head-on, police said.
Isola said Mendez lost control of his car after hitting a dangerous sharp curve on the roadway, where two people were killed in a 1997 crash.
“Many of our corners you cannot safely navigate without changing your speed,” he said.
The state Attorney General’s Office is also investigating the deadly crash, which Isola said is routine when there is a fatality during “any interaction with police.”
Zahid, a Pakistani immigrant who was working as an Uber driver to help support his wife and three young children, had joined his wife, Hifsa Ahmad, and their kids in the US in 2016.
The couple had planned to open a beauty parlor in their hometown of Bay Shore next month and was looking forward to traveling to Pakistan for Zahid’s sister’s wedding.
In a statement this week, Uber offered condolences to the victims of the crash.
“Our thoughts are with the families of Mr. Zahid and the four others who lost their lives in this heartbreaking crash,” the statement said, “and we hope the survivor makes a full recovery.”
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