About 15 minutes before sunrise Saturday, three longtime friends, who grew up playing sports together at Irvington High School in Westchester County, got into a 2019 Ford Ranger pickup. They left the home where they were staying on Wells Road in Peconic and headed south down the residential street.
The friends, all 22, were hoping to find a better vantage point to watch the sunrise, scheduled for 6:03 a.m.
Before they could reach the destination just a short distance away, the pickup crashed into a tree on the dead end road where the street curves, killing a passenger seated in the rear of the vehicle, according to Southold Town police.
“It was a very short trip, unfortunately,” said Southold Det. Sgt. Steven Harned.
Southold police have charged the driver, Kyle Flanagan of Tarrytown, N.Y., with driving while intoxicated. The crash claimed the life of Brian Clinton, also of Tarrytown. The second passenger, Malcolm Pakola of Irvington, N.Y., was injured as well. Mr. Flanagan was airlifted to Stony Brook University Hospital via a Suffolk police medevac and Mr. Pakola was transported to Peconic Bay Medical Center in Riverhead. They both sustained serious injuries, police said.
Mr. Clinton was transported to Stony Brook Eastern Long Island Hospital, where he died, police said. Police said the crash occurred at about 5:49 a.m.
Mr. Flanagan is scheduled to be arraigned on the DWI charge Friday in Southold Town Justice Court. Capt. James Ginas, the acting police chief, said that court appearance is dependent upon Mr. Flanagan being released from the hospital.
Capt. Ginas said police at the scene detected alcohol on the breath of the driver, which led to the DWI charge. He said a judge’s order was issued to collect a blood sample and those results are pending.
Any upgraded charges, such as vehicular manslaughter in a case involving a fatality, would be determined by the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office, police said.
Investigators are still working to determine the speed the vehicle was traveling and whether the occupants were properly wearing seat belts. Sgt. Harned said investigators will review information on the vehicle’s “black box,” known as an event data recorder. The vehicle sustained heavy damage, striking the tree nearly head-on in front of a home at 3635 Wells Road. The damage to the tree remained visible two days after the crash.
“As part of the evaluation of that black box, we’ll actually get confirmed speeds,” Sgt. Harned said, adding that he can’t confirm yet how much speed factored into the crash. The airbags in the vehicle deployed, police said.
Due to the criminal case now pending, police are required to obtain a search warrant to review the information from the black box, Sgt. Harned said.
He added that investigators have had “limited conversations” with the survivors and he was unsure as of Tuesday morning of their updated conditions.
The New York State Police Accident Reconstruction team responded to the scene to assist Southold detectives in the investigation. Sgt. Harned said the state police unit has better equipment to record precise measurements at the scene of the crash. The Southold Fire Department was also at the scene as part of the rescue operation.
The Wells Road house where the friends had been staying belonged to a member of Mr. Flanagan’s family, police said.
Mr. Clinton was a recent graduate of Union College in Schenectady, N.Y., where he earned a degree in economics, according to his online profile. A spokesperson for the college said they are in the process of gathering information to share with the campus. Classes resume for the next semester Sept. 7. Mr. Clinton was a member of the Sigma Chi Fraternity at Union College.
The news of Mr. Clinton’s death left an immediate impact on his hometown. Kristopher Harrison, superintendent of the Irvington School District, shared a letter with the community Sunday announcing with a “heavy heart” that three former students had been involved in the serious car crash in which Mr. Clinton had died.
“During this time, our thoughts and prayers are with each family and their many friends in our school community,” the superintendent wrote.
The three friends graduated from the high school in 2018.
The superintendent shared pictures of memorials that had been created at the campus, including one featuring the name “Clinton” on a fence around the football field next to the name of the school’s mascot, the Bulldogs.
“This tragic accident will impact many of us in the near term and in the future, as each of these former students and their families are deeply connected with our school community,” Mr. Harrison said. “In the days and weeks ahead, each of us will process this differently and many of us will benefit from discussion with family and friends.”
The school district provided grief counseling by its mental health professionals.
In a Facebook post Monday, the school district wrote: “Today, we ask for the school community to remember Brian Clinton, who left our company too soon, and to extend its thoughts and prayers to the families of Brian, Kyle Flanagan and Malcolm Pakola.
“Brian, you will always be in our hearts.”
Services for Mr. Clinton are scheduled for Thursday, Aug. 25, at Edwards-Dowdle Funeral Home in Dobbs Ferry, N.Y. A funeral Mass is scheduled for Friday, Aug. 26, at Immaculate Conception Church in Irvington. Mr. Clinton is survived by his parents, Young-Yi and Bob, and siblings Brett and Jack.
A memorial page on the funeral’s home website quickly filled with condolences for the family and memories of Mr. Clinton, who was remembered as someone who always had a smile.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be considered to the Irvington Booster Club to benefit the Irvington baseball program. More information on memorial donations can be found at the funeral home website.