A veteran police officer responding to a call died Sunday after a drunken driver slammed into his patrol car so hard that the crash was heard a mile away and engulfed the officer's car in flames, Suffolk County police said.
The driver was arrested on a driving while intoxicated charge -- his second in two months, police said.
Suffolk County Police Commissioner Richard Dormer called the crash “a sad reminder of the dangers police officers face each and every day.''
The officer, whose name was not released while police worked to notify his family, was on his way to help a colleague with a traffic stop when Jose Borbon's car plowed into his vehicle at about 4:15 a.m. in Commack, police said.
The impact spun the officer's car around and hurled it into a traffic pole, sparking a fire that erupted so fast there was no chance of rescuing the officer, Suffolk County Chief of Detectives Dominick Varrone told reporters. Borbon, 23, was unhurt.
Borbon had been arrested on a DWI charge Jan. 4 in neighboring Nassau County, police there said; that case is pending. His arraignment in the Suffolk case was set for Monday.
Suffolk and Nassau police were uncertain whether he had a lawyer. A message left with his family was not immediately returned.
“This officer made the ultimate sacrifice protecting and serving the people of Suffolk County,'' County Executive Steve Levy said.
Officers stood in formation and saluted as the slain officer's body was brought to the county medical examiner's office, and flags were lowered to half-staff outside the police department he had served for more than 20 years, police said.
“We all suffered a great loss,'' Suffolk County Police Benevolent Association President Jeff Frayler told Newsday, describing the slain man as “a great police officer, a great family man, a great husband and father.''