Sergio Montenegro-Ochoa was the type of person who would stop doing what he needed to for himself if someone he cared for needed his help more, his friends and family members said Saturday.
It’s that way he lived his life so unselfishly and how few answers surround his sudden death along Route 48 shortly after midnight Wednesday that have made the young father’s passing hit particularly hard for those who knew him.
“He died in an instant,” said Alexandra Camacho, whose husband is a relative of Mr. Montenegro-Ochoa. “From there, we just don’t know.”
Ms. Camacho was among a handful of Mr. Montenegro-Ochoa’s friends, family and co-workers from Crystal Clear Window Cleaning in Mattituck, who visited a roadside memorial erected at the scene of the one-vehicle crash Saturday morning.
Crystal Clear owner Lisa Cifarelli described Mr. Montenegro-Ochoa, 25, as a hard-working man who always had a smile one his face. He and a handful of family members have worked at the company for several years.
“He was like a member of our family,” Ms. Cifarelli said, adding that he leaves behind a wife, Mirna, and two young children, Deibyd and Estefany, who are all currently living in his native Guatemala.
Ms. Cifarelli said there are many questions surrounding Mr. Montenegro-Ochoa’s death in a crash with no witnesses.
Southold police said he was traveling westbound on Route 48 when his vehicle left the roadway and collided with a tree. Ms. Cifarelli added that skidmarks in the center median indicate he swerved left and then right before leaving the roadway.
Neighbors who heard the crash at 12:39 a.m. were the first to arrive at the scene and they found the vehicle obscured in thick brush, using a chainsaw to clear access to the car, Ms. Cifarelli said. They found him breathing initially, but he died before police and ambulance personnel could get to the scene, she said.
Ms. Cifarelli added that Mr. Montenegro-Ochoa was heading home to Southold from his cousin’s house in Greenport when the crash occurred and a head injury from the impact was the likely cause of death. She said some family and friends have surmised Mr. Montenegro-Ochoa might have fallen asleep at the wheel, or perhaps he swerved to avoid striking a deer. Nobody can say for sure.
“That’s the problem,” Ms. Cifarelli said. “It’s tough to get to the bottom of what actually happened.”
Ms. Cifarelli launched a gofundme page to raise $6,000 to send Mr. Montenegro-Ochoa’s body home to his family in Guatemala. The campaign raised nearly $800 in its first 15 hours.
Asked about the kind of person Mr. Montenegro-Ochoa was, Ms. Camacho said, “He helped a lot of people.”
Ms. Cifarelli said that unselfishness, his love of fishing the North Fork’s waterways and his signature smile are among the things people will remember most about Mr. Montenegro-Ochoa.
“When we saw the photo [used to identify his body], we almost thought it wasn’t him,” she said. “He wasn’t smiling.”
Captions: (Top) Friends and family pay their respects to Sergio Montenegro-Ochoa (shown in bottom photo) at a roadside memorial on Route 48 in Southold Saturday morning. (Credit: Grant Parpan)