MANORVILLE - The girlfriend of the driver whose car went airborne in Sunday's horrific crash on the Long Island Expressway says she witnessed the crash from her own vehicle, and says her boyfriend was not speeding at the time.
Police say Carmelo Pinales, 26, of Hicksville, was driving eastbound on the LIE past exit 68 when he lost control of his car. Police say his vehicle went left the highway, landed in oncoming lanes of traffic and crashed into other cars.
Witnesses told News 12 that Pinales was speeding and passing slower vehicles before the crash. However, Pinales' girlfriend, Ivonne Luque, told Newsday that she was driving in front of Pinales Sunday morning. She says she hit her brakes and turned onto the grass to avoid a car that stopped short in front of her.
"I'm not sure if Carmelo saw that I was having problems with the car. That's when I guess he lost control," says Luque. "It's not true what people are saying, that he was speeding."
Luque was not injured. She told Newsday that she watched helplessly as the crash happened.
Pinales, his sister and his 10-year-old son were killed in the crash. Three people in other vehicles were killed. They were 29-year-old Scott Martella, a Smithtown native who worked for Suffolk Executive Steve Bellone's office, and Helen and Isidore Adelson, a married couple from Westhampton Beach.
Investigators have also said they were working to see whether steel plates in the road contributed to the crash. Lawyers for the driver of the car that the Adelsons were riding in have filed notice of a forthcoming lawsuit against New York state. The notice of intent to file a claim alleges negligence and recklessness in the state's operation, supervision and maintenance of the stretch of road where the crash occurred.
A wake for Pinales, his sister and son is scheduled for Thursday from 2-4 p.m. and 7-9 p.m. at the Hartnett Funeral Home in Uniondale.