Since the crash that killed two Sag Harbor men on April 9, I have driven past the accident site on Brick Kiln Road several times. It has had relevance for me, if at a remove, because my older daughter was in another vehicle that happened to come on the scene just seconds after the apparently speeding Mustang struck a tree.
Adelia had been riding with a friend and the friend’s aunt, westbound on Brick Kiln, the same direction that Thomas Wheeler and Manuel Cunha had been traveling. She said that a tire from the wreck was still rolling as they passed, then it came to a stop and flopped over. Smoke, she said, was rising from the twisted metal; the flames that quickly engulfed the car had not yet erupted.
She saw the driver’s head slumped to the side. She saw the passenger’s air bag suddenly and belatedly inflate. It was a lot for a 9-year-old to have to see.
Unofficially, police sources have said that the Mustang must have been going close to 100 miles an hour when Mr. Cunha, who was at its wheel, lost control. The car went into the oncoming traffic lane, then shot back, striking the tree. As a father, my mind plays the what-if scenarios: What if the car my daughter was in had been going the other way? What if the Mustang had come up behind them on the twisting, up-and-down road?
In my work for the paper, I have been to plenty of accident scenes. Many of the worst have been, as this one was, on sunny weekend afternoons — often in the “shoulder season,” before Memorial Day or after Labor Day. In most, it is very difficult to know what really happened. Had the drivers been drinking? Were they just caught up in the exuberance of a day off? Is it all random — just chance?
So, finally, I went to the Brick Kiln site for a closer look. Fresh flowers, a heart-shape wreath, had been left for the victims. Aside from a gentle curve a hundred yards or so up the way and a dip in the pavement, the road was straight.
A man was sitting in a small car parked opposite the memorial smoking a cigarette, the window down. I thought about Mr. Cunha’s and Mr. Wheeler’s families, and wondered what had happened. There were not, and there never will be, real answers.