NYPD: “Apparatus Had Right Of Way-Lights and Sirens Activated-Civilian Vehicle Ran Red Light”BY BRIAN BOYD
Newsday Long Island Staff Writer
July 10, 2004, 6:41 PM EDT
A Bronx man out on the town with friends was killed early Saturday when the sports utility vehicle in which he was a passenger collided with a fire truck rushing to a blaze.The truck from Engine Company 94 and the 2000 Dodge Durango crashed in the intersection of East 163rd Street and Intervale Avenue at 1:23 a.m., fire and police officials said. By midday, a memorial of candles and flowers to Ronaldy Mendez, 25, had sprung up at the accident scene in Longwood, just east of Westchester Avenue. “He was like a second father to my kids,” grief-stricken Moses Mendez, 33, said of his brother, noting that Ronaldy looked after his three nephews during Moses’ truck-driving stints.Police said the fire truck was heading west on East 163rd Street, and the Durango was going south on Intervale Avenue. The Durango ran a red light and the fire truck had the right-of-way, police said. Firefighter Paul Iannizzotto, a department spokesman, said the truck’s siren and lights “were activated.” But Moses Mendez said people in the neighborhood told him the Durango had the green light, and the fire truck’s siren and lights were not blaring.
Ronaldy Mendez, of 987 E. 167th St., was pronounced dead on arrival at Lincoln Medical and Mental Health Center. The five other passengers in the SUV were treated there, with one being admitted. The five firefighters on the truck were taken to Jacobi Medical Center, where they were treated and released.His family remembered Mendez, whose family emigrated from El Salvador when he was 3, as a deeply religious man, a music lover and diehard Yankee fan. “He was a fun guy,” said sister Carmery Mendez, 22. Ronaldy Mendez, who relatives said regularly studied the Bible, was trying to get work as an air-conditioner repairman. He was considering moving to Iowa, where he had attended a private high school for a couple of years, his brother said. The driver of Durango, Jose Acosta, 38, of Youngstown, Ohio, and three passengers, Francisco Tavaras, 25, Daniel Torres, 25, his brother, Mike Torres, 29, were treated at Lincoln and released, police said. A 32-year-old woman in the Durango, who was not identified, was in stable condition at Lincoln with neck and back injuries.The Fire Department is conducting its own investigation.”It would be premature to speculate on what caused the accident,” Iannizzotto said. The truck, based at a Seneca Avenue station, was responding to a fire in an apartment building at East 161st Street and Tinton Avenue, Iannizzotto said. The truck was the fourth engine called to that fire, he said. The Fire Department did not release the names of the firefighters involved.