Noyac Crash Claims Two Lives

    A fiery car crash in Noyac claimed the lives of two men Saturday afternoon, according to Southampton Town police.

    On Tuesday morning, Detective Sgt. Randy Hintze identified the men as Manuel Cunha, 58, of East Hampton and Thomas Wheeler, 43, of Sag Harbor. Initially Detective Hintze said the department was having difficulty positively identifying the victims and in a release attributed the delay to the "nature of the crash and the resulting fire."

     Police released additional information on Tuesday indicating that speeding played a part in the crash. Police are awaiting more information from the Suffolk County Medical Examiner's Office to determine if there were other factors that might have led to the accident.

     According to the police report, Mr. Cunha was driving Mr. Wheeler's 2006 Ford Mustang west on Brick Kiln Road at about 3:30 p.m. when he lost control of it, swerving out of the lane and then over the shoulder and into a tree. Police said the car burst into flames that quickly engulfed it. Both victims were transported to the medical examiner's office after they were pronounced dead at the scene.

     Sag Harbor Village police, who assisted Southampton police after the accident, reported that the Mustang was fully in flames when they arrived and that the two men were trapped inside.

   Sag Harbor Fire Department volunteers extinguished the blaze and closed a portion of Brick Kiln Road while Southampton police investigated the cause of the accident.

     Mr. Wheeler was an owner of East End Prime, a specialty meat and seafood shop in Sag Harbor, and worked as a contractor. He was married to Linda Christiansen-Wheeler and had three children and two stepchildren.

    Mr. Cunha, a veteran of the U.S. Navy, was a carpenter and had grown up in Sag Harbor, attending Pierson High School. A son, Christopher G. Cunha, lives in Queens.

     Cheryl Kraft, Southampton Town's chief fire marshal, said her office had not been called to the scene to determine the cause of the fire, adding that "if it's clear-cut, they don't always call us."

     According to the State Department of Motor Vehicles, 1,148 people died in 1,060 car accidents in New York in 2009.

     A service has been planned for Mr. Cunha on Wednesday from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. at the Yardley and Pino Funeral Home in Sag Harbor. His funeral is scheduled for Thursday at 11 a.m., with burial to follow at St. Andrew's Cemetery in Sag Harbor.

     Visiting hours for Mr. Wheeler will be Thursday from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. at Yardley and Pino in Sag Harbor.