Update: Fatality in Montauk Traffic Accident

Janis Hewitt, who had worked for The Star for 20 years, died Tuesday in a car accident on Montauk Highway in Montauk.

The story, as it appeared in print, Oct. 20: A Montauk woman was killed Tuesday afternoon in a head-on collision with a propane truck near the transfer station in the hamlet. Janis Hewitt, 63, of Montauk, was pronounced dead at the scene, shortly after the 12:39 p.m. crash. The accident closed Montauk Highway for at least nine hours. Ms. Hewitt had been a reporter at The East Hampton Star and covered Montauk for 20 years until earlier this year.

Police said Ms. Hewitt was driving her 2005 Chrysler PT Cruiser east on Montauk Highway when she crossed into the opposite lane and hit a Paraco Gas truck. She was the sole occupant of the vehicle. David T. Kelleher, 42, of Mastic, the driver of the 2015 International Harvester truck, carrying 3,000 gallons of liquid propane, was taken to the hospital as a precaution, Town Police Capt. Chris Anderson said Wednesday. Detectives are investigating the cause of the crash.

“At this point, speed does not appear to be a factor, and we’re basing that on an independent witness interview, as well as an interview with the other driver. Certainly, we will continue with our investigation and hopefully be able to confirm that,” Captain Anderson said.

With only one known eyewitness, police have asked anyone with information about the accident to call detectives at 631-537-7575. All calls will be kept confidential.

Detectives took measurements at the site for an accident-reconstruction analysis. Montauk Highway between the intersections of Old Montauk Highway and Lincoln Road was closed to traffic until about 10:30 p.m.

Officers from the Suffolk County Police Motor Carrier Safety Section conducted safety checks of the gas truck at the scene, and the 2005 Chrysler was impounded for inspection. The Suffolk County medical examiner’s office was also called.

While the propane truck remained intact, a small gas leak prompted police to ask Montauk Fire Department officials, the East Hampton Town HazMat team, and gas company personnel to respond.

The Fire Department used its heavy rescue squad to extricate Ms. Hewitt from her vehicle after the crash, a long process that was coordinated with town police. A Suffolk County medevac helicopter was called, but was soon canceled. The Montauk ambulance took the driver of the gas truck to Southampton Hospital, where he was treated and released Tuesday.

Town Police Chief Michael Sarlo was among the many people who were remembering Ms. Hewitt Wednesday. As the Montauk precinct commander in 2009 and 2010, and throughout his career, he followed Ms. Hewitt’s work as she covered community events and reported on committees and issues facing the hamlet. “She was engaged in the community, and was always fair in her reporting. It always appeared to me that she was truly there to document and report for the citizens, with a smile on her face and good sense of humor. She truly loved Montauk, and it showed.”

Many of the firefighters and emergency medical personnel who responded to the accident knew Ms. Hewitt, and county officials led a “critical incident stress” debriefing session for them Wednesday. Information about funeral arrangements will be posted on The Star’s website when available.

Ms. Hewitt wrote about everything from the school board to community happenings to new businesses and residents of note. She was a frequent contributor to the paper’s “Relay” column, which is written each week by a different member of The Star’s staff.

She often mused about Montauk, and in one “Relay” from 2011, she wrote, “When we drove over the Old Montauk Highway and had our first glance at the incredible ocean view, I knew I was home. I had found Montauk, and fell deeply in love . . . I envy the newcomers for their first time and all they have to learn and see in our little salt-scented hamlet. But it’s nothing like the Montauk I first came to love, a place that was still undeveloped, with sand-swept lots of shrubby plants and empty beaches for as long as the eye could see. Parking was available and there were never long waits on sandwich lines.”

Update, Oct. 18, 8:40 p.m.: One person was killed in the head-on collision near the Montauk transfer station on Tuesday afternoon, East Hampton Town police have confirmed.

Janis Hewitt, 63, of Montauk was pronounced dead at the scene of the accident. Ms. Hewitt had been a reporter at The East Hampton Star for 20 years.

Police said that Ms. Hewitt was driving a 2005 Chrysler PT Cruiser east on Montauk Highway when she crossed into the opposite lane and hit a Paraco Gas truck at 12:39 p.m. She was the sole occupant of the vehicle. David T. Kelleher, 42, of Mastic, the driver of the 2015 International Harvester gas truck, was taken to the hospital for non-life-threatening injuries.

Detectives are investigating the cause of the crash. They took measurements at the scene for an accident-reconstruction analysis. Traffic on Montauk Highway between the intersections of Old Montauk Highway and Lincoln Road remained shut down as of 9 p.m.

Officers from the Suffolk County Police Motor Carrier Safety Section conducted safety checks on the gas truck at the scene. The 2005 Chrysler was impounded for an inspection. The Suffolk County medical examiner’s office was also called to the scene.

The Montauk Fire Department responded with its heavy rescue squad to extricate Ms. Hewitt from her vehicle after the crash. A Suffolk County medevac helicopter was called, but soon canceled.

A Montauk ambulance transported the driver of the truck to Southampton Hospital, where he was treated and released.

Many of the firefighters and emergency medical personnel who responded to the accident knew Ms. Hewitt, who had covered Montauk for The Star until earlier this year, writing about everything from the school board to community happenings to new businesses and residents of note. She was a frequent contributor to the paper's "Relay" column, which is written each week by a different member of The Star's staff.

Anyone with information about the accident has been asked to call the East Hampton Town Police Department at 631-537-7575. All calls will be kept confidential.

Originally, Oct. 18, 1:18 p.m.: Police and fire officials are on the scene of a head-on collision involving a propane truck near the entrance to the Montauk transfer station. At least two people were seriously injured. 

The accident occurred at about 12:40 on Tuesday afternoon. One person was reportedly pinned. The Montauk Fire Department responded with its heavy rescue squad to extricate the person. Chief Joe Lenahan was running the operation and reported "heavy, heavy damage." He initially requested a Suffolk County medevac helicopter to land at the 555 property in Amagansett, but it was then canceled. Two Montauk ambulances responded.

The East Hampton Town hazmat team was requested to respond and assembled at about 1 p.m. The chief reported a possible gas leak. The East Hampton Town fire marshal's office also responded.

Traffic was shut down at the intersection of Old Montauk Highway, just west of the overlook, and Lincoln Road on the eastern side of the accident.

East Hampton Town police detectives are responding to the scene with the town's command van. 

The East Hampton Ambulance Association picked up an unrelated call for emergency medical care in Montauk while Montauk's ambulances were tied up with the accident.

Check back for more information when it becomes available.

Traffic was shut down on Montauk Highway at Lincoln Road because of a head-on crash near the Montauk transfer station.T.E. McMorrow