The driver that slammed head-on into an Uber vehicle as it sped around a Long Island corner over the summer, killing himself and four other people, hit a top speed of 106 mph just 3 1/2 seconds before impact, investigators said Friday.
Justin Mendez, a 22-year-old from Brookhaven, was behind the wheel of that Nissan Maxima when it veered into oncoming traffic and crashed head-on with the Uber, a Toyota Prius, on Montauk Highway in Quogue Village late on July 24.
He died at a hospital. Four passengers in his car, two brothers in their 20s, a 32-year-old man from Bay Shore and a 25-year-old man from Manhasset, died at the scene. A fifth passenger, a young Garden City woman, was severely injured.
Data from the black boxes of the Maxima and Prius were recovered by New York State Police Collision Reconstruction Unit members as part of their investigation. The box from the Maxima showed Mendez was driving at 86 mph at the time of the collision but hit a top speed of 106 mph just seconds before.
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There was no indication he braked before impact, investigators said.
The Prius' speed at the time of the collision was 27 mph. That driver had been going about 38 mph seconds before the collision but braked just before the crash. It did not appear that anyone in the Uber was badly hurt in the crash.
A witness who had been in another car at the time of the horrific crash described the Maxima as moving like a "race car," according to the report.
"I saw a red car near the old VFW in Quogue on Montauk Highway. I did not realize until after my headlights had illuminated the vehicle that the red car had no lights on and was completely blacked out. When this vehicle passed me, it appeared as the vehicle was traveling at over 100 miles per hour, which sounded like a race car,
taking my breath away," the witness said. "Next, I saw a police car with the emergency lights on around 100 yards or 10- 15 seconds behind the red car, with the police car not making any headway of closing the distance between them."
The New York state attorney general's office reviewed the findings related to the police vehicle, as is customary in such cases, and found no cause to pursue any action against the officer who was pursuing the Maxima before the crash.
Police say their investigation is ongoing and ask anyone with information to call 63-653-4791.