The fiancee of the off-duty police officer who died in a fiery one-way crash in the Bronx last Thursday says she is "hurt, lost, upset and confused" by his sudden death.
In her first public comments since the death of 29-year-old Mount Vernon police officer Reginald Velez Jr., Lissette Ortiz told The Journal News about her last hours with her fiance before the crash.
She said they said goodbye to each other between 12:30 a.m. and 1 a.m. in their Bronx apartment, where he told her he was heading to a diner with friends. At about 3 a.m., one of the friends called to say Velez had been in a wreck.
Velez had left the diner alone and collided head-on with a tractor-trailer when he went the wrong way down I-95 in the northbound lanes near exit 11.
The impact caused the Lexus sedan Velez was driving to burst into flames. Velez was pronounced dead at the scene.
Ortiz said Velez worked an overnight police shift, and indicated sleep may have been a factor in the crash.
“To recharge, Reggie needs to sleep at least 12 to 16 hours, and he can’t sleep at night since his body is confused with the change of tours every week,” she wrote in an email to The Journal News.
She said they were saving money to buy a house and get married, and had names picked out for their children.
Ortiz said she met Velez when they were both students at the Dewitt Clinton High School in the Bronx in 1997. She said he was on the football, track and swim teams, and he also sang and acted in talent shows.
"Reggie loved the stage!" she wrote to The Journal News.
The two began dating years after they both graduated, and the couple loved to travel to the ocean.
She said Velez was loyal to his family, and was popular among friends and neighbors.
But “he was extremely humble and never understood why so many people were attracted to his presence,” she wrote.
“He is forever with me, and it pains me that I cannot comfort myself in the embrace of his arms or fall asleep to the sound of his heart beat,” she wrote. “He was my rock!”
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