A Queens man allegedly fell asleep behind the wheel after he had been drinking and crashed his minivan into a tree in East Hampton Village on Sunday, leaving his three passengers in critical condition.
Jungsik Lee, 60, of Elmhurst was arrested on a misdemeanor drunken-driving charge on Sunday evening, though more serious charges will likely be brought, the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office said during his arraignment Tuesday. In the meantime, East Hampton Town Justice Steven Tekulsky set bail at $10,000, which was posted.
Mr. Lee was heading west on Pantigo Road near Gay Lane after a fishing trip in Montauk when his 2005 Nissan Quest minivan veered off the road into a lamppost and hit a tree on the north side of the road on Sunday at about 4:30 p.m., according to East Hampton Village police. “There are no skid marks,” Chief Gerard Larsen said. “The driver apparently fell asleep.”
The passengers were semi-conscious and all suffering from internal injuries, Chief Larsen said. Two of them were airlifted immediately to Stony Brook University Medical Center, and the third was transported to Southampton Hospital and later transferred to Stony Brook when his condition worsened.
Duk Ju Oh, 67, was sitting in the front passenger seat, and Dong Won Lee, 56, was sitting behind him. (It is unclear how or if Dong Won Lee is related to Jungsik Lee.) Sooh Won Kim, 64, who was seated behind the driver, was in such bad condition police weren’t able to immediately identify him, they said. Police were not sure whether they were wearing seat belts or not.
The East Hampton Village Volunteer Ambulance Association, the Bridgehampton Fire Department, and Springs Fire Department, along with an emergency medical technician from the Amagansett Fire Department who responded with a chief, treated the victims. Pantigo Road, which is part of Montauk Highway, was closed between Gay Lane and Accabonac Road for seven and a half hours, until midnight, while detectives from both the village and town police reconstructed the accident, Chief Larsen said.
Mr. Lee, who was wearing his seatbelt, was taken to Southampton Hospital for a cut on his leg and neck pain. An officer interviewing him there smelled“an odor of an alcoholic beverage on his breath,” according to the arrest report. He consented to have his blood drawn, police said, and it was sent to the Suffolk County Crime Lab for testing. According to Justice Tekulsky, that number came back as .11 of 1 percent. A reading of .08 or higher triggers a driving-while-intoxicated charge.
Mr. Lee was released from Southampton Hospital Monday night and arraigned on the drunken-driving charge Tuesday afternoon. His head bowed, dressed in a blue hospital gown, he propped himself up on crutches. Though his right knee was wrapped in what appeared to be a soft cast, he declined an offer to be seated during the arraignment.
“I want to advise both the people and the defense attorney that I was present at the scene of the accident,” East Hampton Town Justice Steven Tekulsky said as he began the proceedings. Justice Tekulsky is a longtime volunteer with the East Hampton Fire Department’s heavy rescue squad. “However, when I arrived, the defendant was not in the car. I did participate in cutting the passenger out from the rear door,” he said, explaining that he remained impartial as to the criminal case before him.
Mr. Lee told Justice Tekulsky that he had come to Montauk to go fishing Sunday morning with his three friends. Mr. Lee, who appeared shaken, spoke in broken English.
Rob Archer, an assistant district attorney, asked bail to be set at $10,000, pointing out the possibility of additional charges. Justice Tekulsky agreed on the bail amount, with a caveat: “I would suggest the D.A.’s office should upgrade the charges as soon as possible,” if that is its inclination. The Suffolk County Vehicular Crimes unit has been in constant contact with the village police detectives handling the case since Sunday afternoon. Mr. Lee was represented by Brian Francese, an attorney with the Legal Aid Society.
Mr. Lee’s wife was seated in the courtroom, along with a family friend. The wife spoke no English. When told what the bail amount was, she went to the side courtroom where she counted out $10,000 from her handbag, with two clerks each counting the stack of $100 bills before filling out a receipt. The friend, who identified himself only as Mr. Han, said Mr. Lee was an occasional drinker who would drink only two or three beers.
With the bail paid, Mr. Lee’s wife took the receipt and, along with Mr. Han, drove to police headquarters, from where Mr. Lee was released.