Family, Friends of Woman Killed On Rt. 24 Blame Potholes

Some are crying out for change on Flanders Road.

A day after losing their loved one, friends and family of Barbara Tocci, who died in a Flanders car accident Thursday, are outraged over potholes on the road they say may have contributed to the tragedy.

"I was going down that road three days before that and thinking, 'This road is a disaster. Someone is going to die on this road,'" said Paul Tocci, Barbara's brother.

"Barbara was a friend of mine," said Jim Dreeben. "If a pothole was the reason for the accident, someone was not doing his job.  Flanders Road has never been so full of big potholes and they should have been fixed two weeks ago. I drive that road every day and have hit the potholes in the same area where Barbara was killed. Luckily, I either saw them and slowed down or hit them and was lucky I did not blow a tire."  

When reached for comment, the New York State Department of Transportation responded, "We at NYSDOT are saddened by the news of the fatality on New York State Route 24," said spokesperson Eileen Peters. "The police should be contacted for information as they are in charge of the investigation. NYSDOT will coordinate with the police, review their reports and take appropriate action."

Peters said motorists call 1-800 POTHOLE to report a pothole on state roadways and NYSDOT crews will repair them as soon as possible, usually within 48 hours, weather permitting.

"Our NYSDOT Long Island maintenance crews are on the alert and have been patrolling state roadways for potholes and repairing them all over Long Island each day as the weather permits. The relatively early cold temperatures and the fluctuating hot-cold temperatures so far this winter have caused more frequent freeze/thaw cycles, which is what creates potholes," Peters said.

To date, NYSDOT Region 10 Long Island has spent over 40 percent more for pothole repairs this year than during the same time period last winter season, Peters said. 

In a comparison of asphalt usage in NYSDOT Region 10 Long Island for the same period, October 11 through January 2: In 2012-2013 the region used approximately 115 tons of asphalt to repair potholes. In 2013-2014 the region used approximately 285 tons of asphalt to repair pot holes.  

"Keeping the roads safe is NYSDOT’s highest priority so any and all feasible measures are be taken to continue pothole repairs," she said.

She added that it's not possible to repave roads during the winter or snow season.

Police did not immediately specify whether or not potholes may have played a part in the accident; police said it has not yet been determined.

According to Southampton Town police detectives, authorities are investigating the crash, which took the life of Tocci, 47. Tocci was originally from the Flanders area and went to Riverhead High School.

Police said the accident took place at 7:57 a.m. near the intersection of Spinney Road and Flanders Road between a PSEG Truck and a Ford Explorer. 

Michael Pepe, 53, was driving a 2005 GMC utility truck southbound on Flanders Road when his vehicle crossed into the oncoming lane of traffic and hit Tocci's 2000 Ford Explorer, which was going north, head-on, police said.

Southampton Town police officers and detectives, Flanders Fire Department and Flanders Northampton Volunteer Ambulance responded to the scene. 

Tocci was pronounced dead at the scene. She  was extricated from her vehicle by the Flanders Fire Department and transported to the Suffolk County Medical Examiner’s Office. 

The PSEG driver, Michael Pepe, 53, of Bayport, was transported to Peconic Bay Medical Center by Flanders Northampton Volunteer Ambulance, where he was treated for non-life-threatening injuries.

The New York State Police Forensic ID & Collision Reconstruction Unit responded to assist in the investigation of the accident scene. 

The Suffolk County District Attorney’s vehicular crimes bureau also responded and the New York State Department of Transportation responded to repair damage to the roadway. 

The Ford Explorer and GMC utility vehicle were impounded for a safety check and further investigation. 

No criminal charges are expected to be filed.

The investigation is continuing. Detectives are asking anyone who may have witnessed the accident to contact Southampton Town Detectives at 631-702-2230.  

Flanders Road was closed from Bellows Pond Road to Pleasure Drive in Flanders for hours due to the accident. The road was expected to reopen just after 2 p.m.

The accident was the second death Thursday morning in the area. In Laurel, a male jogger was killed during a two car accident. 

Donna Monti January 18, 2014 at 08:31 PM
I absolutely hate driving Flanders road, day time but worse at night. I almost never go out east from Flanders because I am afraid I'll get killed. In the 35 years living here, I have seen and heard about heinous auto crashes, and it is not once in a while either. They need to widen it, put lights on it, by all means fix the pot holes the plows creat every snow storm. ( I knew the Tucci family, be caused their grand mother lived on my road). They need to put two more lights to cut down on the speeding and control the traffic one on oak ave, and one at pleasure drive. So many people have lost their lives on that small curvy piece of road, how many more need to die before they take some of that funding southampton gets, and fix FLANDERS road BEFORE you plant more trees and flowers to make hampton bays and southampton pretty, you might want to invest some money and make rt 24 safe.
Danna Pugsley January 19, 2014 at 02:02 PM
I agree with Donna Monti! Rt 24 has always been a horrible road to travel! I dreaded taking it at night because of the lack of lighting and poor road conditions! And she is right; fix the road in Flanders BEFORE spending money on flowers and trees to make the Hamptons look better. No one will see those flowers of tree lined streets if they do not arrive safely!
Ellen Berkowitz January 20, 2014 at 08:04 PM
I have lived on Flanders Rd.(Rt.24) for 26 years and watched the traffic flow grow year after year while the maintenance schedule failed to keep up. I was just saying to my husband, as recently as last week, that the lack of light and high volume of traffic is a recipe for disaster. Add to that snow plows that continually run up and down the road at full speed with snow plows down when there is barely 2 inches of snow on the ground. Ridiculous…all that does is create more potholes and poor road conditions. The last paving that was done on Rt. 24 was sub-standard. Before it was complete, flaws in the roadway were apparent. Shame on whomever was responsible for signing off on that project!! The contractor should be held responsible for their shoddy work and sub standard materials used. My heart goes out to the Tocci family…more will die until the NYSDOT seriously addresses the safety and speed issues on Rt.24.
Donna Monti February 13, 2014 at 01:31 AM
The elected official for the highways and roads is ALEX GREGOR. He is amazing . I have seen him get out of his truck with a broom and sweep up all the broken glass when some kids vandelized the bus stop waiting benches on rt 24 . When I called his o ffice about having oak have plowed, there was the plow 1/2 hr later.why do you think he has been elected year after year.
Ellen Berkowitz March 31, 2014 at 10:12 AM
Rte. 24 is a State maintained road, not Town of Southampton. While Alex may be very good at what he does, it is NY State who makes the decisions and awards contracts for Flanders Rd.


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