A driver who police said struck and killed a bicyclist from Florida Friday evening on County Road 39 in Southampton was arrested and charged with drunken driving. Bail was set Saturday morning in the courtroom of Southampton Town Justice Edward Burke Sr. at $25,000 for Jesse Werner Steudte, 21, of Southampton, who pleaded not guilty.
Neil S. Fife, 29, from Jupiter, Fla., was on a bicycle attempting to cross the highway in a marked crosswalk during the Friday evening rush of weekend traffic at Sandy Hollow Road when he was struck and killed by an eastbound Jeep being driven by Mr. Steudte at about 6:28, police said. "Civilians in the area immediately started CPR on Fyfe," police said in a statement. He was taken by ambulance to Southampton Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Mr. Steudte was treated for minor injuries before being arrested, police said. The Southampton and North Sea Fire Departments were on the scene, with police closing the highway in both directions. The Suffolk County district attorney's vehicular crime unit and the New York State Police forensic identification and collision reconstruction unit were on hand to assist Southampton detectives. The highway was closed to traffic until about 2 a.m.
Mr. Steudte's father was in the courtroom for the arraignment, as were 11 other friends and family members. "Okay, all right, folks," Justice Burke said to the supporters of Mr. Steudte who were seated in the courtroom. "A real tragedy here, but let's go through the process."
Colin Astarita, representing Mr. Steudte, told the justice that his client had consented to have his blood drawn after the accident to determine its alcohol level. Maggie Bopp from the Suffolk district attorney's office said in court that Mr. Steudte had admitted that he had been drinking, and also said that he was the driver of the 1990 Jeep when it struck Mr. Fife. He was alone in the car at the time.
Mr. Astarita asked that Mr. Steudte be released without bail, or at least to have bail set at $5,000. Ms. Bopp asked for bail to be set at $150,000.
Mr. Astarita argued that the signs of intoxication police reported for Mr. Steudte could have been the result of the trauma caused by the accident itself.
"There was an admission that he had consumed alcohol," Ms. Bopp countered. Justice Burke told the courtroom that he had to consider "what was coming down the road," legally, for Mr. Steudte, as he set bail at $25,000, cash.
Mr. Steudte's father, a tall man, as is Mr. Steudte, left the courthouse with a piece of paper on which was written the bail information. A friend stopped him on the courthouse steps and asked how much they needed to raise. Mr. Steudte, visibly distraught, pointed to the white piece of paper. "This or this," he said.
The results of the blood test will be known in about two weeks, Mr. Astarita said.
Ms. Bopp promised a swift move to indictment on multiple felony charges if the test indicates Mr. Steudte was intoxicated at the time of the accident.