While dining last Friday afternoon with her son, Kevin, Angela Brown raised her cell phone and took a candid photo of the young man.
It was a quiet moment shared between a proud mother and her 27-year-old son, who glanced down at his hands and let out a bit of a smile as the shutter sounded.
“His smile lit up a room,” Ms. Brown said in a telephone call from her home in Connecticut Wednesday. “He was quiet, but full of love.”
Hours after that photograph was taken, Mr. Brown, a father of a 2-year-old daughter, lost his life in a tragic accident on Fishers Island.
On Wednesday, New York State Police announced they are investigating the circumstances of his death, which occurred after the Norwich, Conn. resident fell from the trunk of a 2011 Hyundai Genesis and hit his head shortly after 3 a.m. Saturday. Police said they discovered a badly injured Mr. Brown on East End Road, a narrow stretch of highway that covers much of the center of the island, which is a part of Southold Town. He arrived 90 minutes later at Lawrence and Memorial Hospital in New London, where he was pronounced dead within minutes.
The incident has left Mr. Brown’s friends and family with more questions than answers as they simultaneously mourn a life cut short and await more details to emerge from the morning of his death.
“We’re hurt and saddened that a wonderful life was lost,” said Sally Kropp, who employed Mr. Brown as a field services supervisor at Kropp Environmental Services in North Franklin, Conn. for most of the past eight years.
Ms. Brown said her son had dropped his girlfriend off at the airport early Friday morning to visit her family in Puerto Rico. At lunch, he said he would be joining a pair of friends aboard one friend’s boat on a trip to Fishers Island that evening.
Tamara Cintrón, Mr. Brown’s girlfriend, said she spoke briefly with him around 1 a.m. Saturday as he stepped outside of a bar on the island to wish her a good night. She woke up the next morning to a missed call from his number around 3 a.m. There was no message.
Ms. Brown, who in the days since her son’s death has spoken with investigators, said she believes her son was seated along with one other friend inside an open trunk when he was thrown from the vehicle and hit his head on the ground. Friends and family said they’ve been told it’s not uncommon for people to hitch a ride back to their boat on the island from The Pequot, the only public bar and restaurant on Fishers Island. Ms. Brown said it is unclear to them who else her son’s group was with, though police have said they’ve identified the driver. Ms. Brown said police told her the other individuals involved were people Mr. Brown and his friends met for the first time that night.
Both friends returned home on the boat soon after the accident, Ms. Brown said, adding that she has not spoken with either of them since the incident.
State police mentioned no other individuals in a press release about the incident. The department’s public narrative on the events of that early morning are as follows:
“[Mr. Brown] sustained significant head trauma after falling from the trunk of a 2011 Hyundai Genesis … the driver and the vehicle involved were located on Fishers Island and an active investigation into the circumstances surrounding the accident are ongoing at this time.”
Ms. Brown said the family has not been told who was driving the vehicle.
“My understanding is the driver moved from the original location [of the accident],” said Ms. Brown, who added that she was told police flew in investigators to create an accident reconstruction that morning.
Police are asking anyone who witnessed or has information about the accident to call state investigators at 631-756-3300. All calls will remain confidential, police said.
In the days since her son’s death, Ms. Brown has been overwhelmed by the outpouring of love for her son. A group of friends gathered this week to paint a mural in his memory at the Norwich Skate Park. Ms. Brown and other family members, including Kevin’s sister Francesca, attended the event.
“[Kevin] had a real love of family and friends and especially his sister,” Ms. Brown said. “He would be so happy to see how everyone remembered him. He couldn’t have realized just how many people loved him.”
Ms. Brown said her son loved to ride BMX bikes, quads and snowmobiles in his spare time. His favorite way to pass the days, though, was to spend time with his daughter Charlotte, who will turn 3 in December.
A wake is being held for Mr. Brown this evening, Friday, Sept. 6, from 5 to 8 p.m.
Ms. Kropp volunteered to host a celebration of her longtime employee’s life following his burial on Saturday. She described Mr. Brown as a difference maker for her company.
“This is very tragic as you can imagine,” she said. “My gut tells me there’s more to this story, but I could be wrong.”
Ms. Brown said she believes her son’s death was ultimately an accident and imagines the person behind the wheel is also suffering. She would welcome more clarity about what happened in those early morning hours, but she’s not convinced there’s justice to be served.
“I’m a person of faith,” she said. “Even if there was some foul play, we have to forgive. I guess I just don’t want any more suffering.”
Top caption: The photo Ms. Brown took of her son at lunch on the afternoon prior to his death.