04/11/14 5:00pm
04/11/2014 5:00 PM

Sonny Turner and his wife of 61 years, Hattie

Walker “Sonny” Turner, longtime ambulance volunteer, photographer, retired postman and chaplain — among numerous other roles — died April 3 at the age of 83 following a long illness.

“Sonny wore a number of different hats,” his family said in his obituary.

And now, the many people he touched are offering their condolences, said his wife of 61 years, Hattie.  (more…)

06/18/13 4:13pm
06/18/2013 4:13 PM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO |  The Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance headquarters will be named after both Heidi Behr and Bill Stone.

Earlier this year, the Riverhead Town Board voted to name a section of road in downtown’s riverfront parking lot after Heidi Behr, a Riverhead ambulance volunteer who died in an ambulance crash in May 2005 while responding to a call.

Board members also agreed to name the Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance headquarters after Ms. Behr, who was one of two emergency medical technicians who died in the 2005 crash. The other, Bill Stone of Ridge, was a paid EMT. But members of the ambulance board said last week that after speaking with the families of both Ms. Behr and Mr. Stone, they believe both should be honored.

“The ambulance corps is very insistent it be named for Bill and Heidi, not just Heidi,” board president Bruce Talmage told the Town Board last Thursday.

“I have no problem with that,” Supervisor Sean Walter responded. The proposal was met with no opposition from Town Board members.

The ambulance board suggested putting the name on an electronic sign with a rolling message board, although Town Board members said those are not permitted by the town’s sign code. Town officials agreed to let the ambulance board come up with the language and design for the sign and to bring it back at a future meeting for discussion.

tgannon@timesreview.com

05/02/13 8:00am
05/02/2013 8:00 AM

After years of weaving through traffic lights on Route 58 on their way to emergencies, Riverhead ambulance volunteers are no longer seeing red.

For the past year, along Riverhead Town’s busiest road, a new system that changes red lights to green as ambulances approach has helped first responders get to alarms faster.

The Opticom system used by the Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance Corps employs GPS and radio signals to communicate between ambulances and antennas attached to traffic lights along Route 58, said ambulance chief Joseph Oliver.

As an ambulance approaches a traffic light, the system triggers any red lights along the ambulance’s route to switch to green, Mr. Oliver said. The GPS also registers how fast the ambulance is traveling and whether it’s turning, he said.

The new system has cut down on the ambulance corps’ response times since it was installed in early 2012 and has made it safer for ambulances to respond to calls.

“If we get in an accident, it doesn’t matter how serious the emergency, we’re not going,” Mr. Oliver said.

The antennas are attached to the traffic signals from Tanger Outlets to Ostrander Avenue, he said. Any new lights built on the road will have the system.

The Opticom system is designed to give cars in the opposite lanes a yellow then red light, with enough time for them to stop and let the ambulance through, he said. The corps now has Opticom installed in all its ambulances and fi rst responder vehicles. It paid for two of the transmitters — which cost roughly $2,000 a piece — but the other seven were donated.

Brookhaven Town fire departments and ambulance crews are switching over to the system thanks to grant funding, Mr. Oliver said.

Riverhead Town Police Chief David Hegermiller said the department could benefit from a light-preemption system. Funding has been the biggest hurdle, as the police department would need far more transmitters than the ambulance corps.

“It would be great to have, but currently it is unfunded,” Chief Hegermiller said.

The system doesn’t mean ambulance drivers can be careless, though. The drivers still slow down as they approach a light in case any other cars are running the red light in the other direction, Mr. Oliver said, a problem that occurs far too often to his liking.

He said volunteers see drivers running the red lights “every day, just because people aren’t paying attention. Always pay attention because it could change really quickly.”

psquire@timesreview.com

03/29/13 4:30pm
03/29/2013 4:30 PM
CARRIE MILLER PHOTO | Medical workers load a dirt bike crash victim into a Medevac helicopter Thursday afternoon.

CARRIE MILLER PHOTO | Medical workers load a dirt bike crash victim into a Medevac helicopter Thursday afternoon off Elton Road in Riverhead.

A man was airlifted to an area hospital Thursday afternoon after crashing a dirt bike in woods off East Main Street in Riverhead, officials said.

The man, identified by police as James Bennett of Riverhead, crashed into a tree about 5:10 p.m. in a wooded area just west of the Millbrook Gables neighborhood, south of Route 58, said Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance chief Joseph Oliver.

A Suffolk County Police Department helicopter landed in the parking lot of True Tech Inc., adjacent to the woods, and Mr. Bennett was then transported to Stony Brook University Medical Center.

Mr. Oliver said the victim and other young men were driving vehicles in the woods at the time of the crash. No other injuries were reported.

“As of [Thursday] night he was stable,” Riverhead police Detective David Freeborn said of the victim Friday.

He added that the other people involved, believed to be at least five, fled the area after the crash, leaving Mr. Bennett there, injured.

The bike was gone as well when police arrived.

It’s not known who removed it.

“From what we can tell, they got on the bike and took off,” Det. Freeborn said. “A good Samaritan called 911; the person saw him fly off the bike.”

The decision was made to transport the man via helicopter because of the nature of his head injuries, officials said.

Reached Friday, Ms. Bennett’s mother asked only that people keep her son in their prayers.

cmiller@timesreview.com

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11/07/12 4:15pm
11/07/2012 4:15 PM

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | A woman was hospitalized Wednesday afternoon after three cars crashed on Route 58.

A three-car chain reaction crash caused by dangerous weather conditions on Route 58 sent a woman to an area hospital Wednesday afternoon, Riverhead police said.

The crash occurred about 3:10 p.m., when one vehicle crashed into the back of another vehicle, which then crashed into a car on Route 58 “like a domino effect,” police at the scene said.

The victim was taken to Peconic Bay Medical Center by Riverhead ambulance volunteers for treatment of non life-threatening injuries, police said.

The accident was caused by slippery road conditions due to the nor’easter that has begun to hit Riverhead, police said.

No one was charged in the accident.

psquire@timesreview.com

09/14/12 8:00am
09/14/2012 8:00 AM
Heidi Behr, Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance

NEWS-REVIEW FILE PHOTO | The future Heidi Behr Memorial Park & Boardwalk?

It’s heroes week in the United States, as it is every year around the anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks.

TV, newspapers and Facebook abound with images and remembrances of those lost on Sept. 11, 2001, with a spotlight on the men and women who ran to their deaths to save others.

Sept. 11 has become a sort of de facto memorial day for the country’s much-deserving emergency responders.

So there may be no better time than now to remark on one of Riverhead’s greatest fallen heroes — volunteer EMT Heidi Behr — and how we could best honor her memory.

Heidi was killed in an ambulance crash while responding to a call in May 2005. William Stone, a paramedic from Rocky Point, was also killed in the crash.

They were part of a crew rushing a heart attack victim to the hospital when their ambulance struck a tree on Main Road in Aquebogue.

Heidi, only 23 at the time, left behind a 13-month-old son, Jared, who is blind and suffers from epilepsy, cerebral palsy and brain damage. Ever since the crash, he’s been raised by Heidi’s parents, John and June, with the help of their other daughter, Dana.

The outpouring of support this family has received from fellow ambulance and fire volunteers and others since Heidi’s death has been awe-inspiring.

When it was becoming nearly impossible for the Behrs to continue raising Jared, who cannot walk, in their modest 800-square-foot house on Riverside Drive, a group of local people and businesses donated time and money to rebuild the Cutchogue home of June Behr’s late parents and make it fully handicapped accessible.

It’s now a place where Jared can grow — with plenty of room for his necessary support equipment — as his grandparents age.

And through the effort to rebuild that house, the Heidi’s Helping Angels community support group was born.

Volunteers with Heidi’s Helping Angels are at work every year now, mostly raising money for scholarships for Riverhead and Mercy high school students in Heidi’s name. In fact, next Thursday night is the group’s annual steak dinner fundraiser at Polish Hall. At last year’s event, Peconic Bay Medical Center pledged an annual $5,000 donation to the Heidi Behr Memorial Scholarship Fund.

These examples of one community’s outpouring of support are why I always tell people that if they ever, God forbid, found themselves facing some life-threatening injury or otherwise in need of help after a tragedy, they would be so lucky to live in Riverhead.

This is a community that rallies like no other I’ve witnessed on Long Island.

Which is why it’s beyond my understanding that more than seven years after her death, no government property has been named in Heidi Behr’s honor. I can’t think of a more deserving person to have a highway or bridge named after her.

In town and in the schools we have dozens of places and structures, big and small, named for people. Think of all the parks named after politicians, including Stotzky Memorial Park, Milton L. Burns Park and Lombardi Park.

Yet nothing for Heidi Behr.

Here was a volunteer, a 23-year-old single mother, who died in the line of duty trying to save another person’s life. And she wasn’t just an ambulance member; she was one of the best. Heidi had received “Top Responder” and “Corpsman of the Year” awards with the ambulance corps.

She may be the town’s greatest fallen hero outside of Medal of Honor recipient Garfield Langhorn.

While we live in a world full of complainers, young and old alike, dwelling on what they haven’t got, this young women gave herself — not only to her son and her family, but to her community.

Imagine just a playground named for Heidi. Children across Riverhead might then be asking who she was.

She was one of the best our community has ever produced, parents would answer. She was a true role model.

I’ll float one bold idea right here. The riverfront boardwalk park downtown is in need of a namesake. It should be named the Heidi Behr Memorial Park & Boardwalk. Throughout most of the year, the park is a quiet, tranquil place, with the placid Peconic River as its centerpiece. It’s a place many of us stop to sit and reflect. It would be fitting.

Heidi Behr grew up just a short walk from the Peconic River as a kid. A young hero in the making.

Michael White is the editor of the News-Review. He can be reached at mwhite@timesreview.com or 631-298-3200, ext. 152.

08/12/12 1:45pm
08/12/2012 1:45 PM

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance responded to an emergency call Sunday afternoon at Splish Splash.

Riverhead ambulance volunteers were kept busy in the heat Sunday afternoon, responding to emergency calls at both Splish Splash and Panera Bread.

An older woman was taken to Peconic Bay Medical Center after experiencing chest pains at Splish Splash in Calverton at around 12:15 p.m. Sunday afternoon, according to water park officials.

Manager Mike Bengston said the woman was experiencing chest pains and was treated by Riverhead Ambulance volunteers. No other information about the incident was available.

About an hour later, ambulance volunteers responded to a call of a woman who said she was “about to pass out” at Panera Bread on Route 58. That woman was also taken to Peconic Bay.

08/11/12 11:31am
08/11/2012 11:31 AM
TIM GANNON PHOTO | The motorcycle and minivan after Saturday's crash.

TIM GANNON PHOTO | The motorcycle in Saturday’s crash was not badly damaged.

A motorcyclist was taken to Peconic Bay Medical Center for non-life threatening injuries after his bike and a tan minivan collided on Route 58 Saturday morning.

A section of Route 58 was briefly closed to traffic while the vehicles were moved off the roadway.

The driver of the van — which was left with a large dent above its front, driver’s side wheel well after the crash — was not hurt.

The accident occurred as the van was turning left onto Route 58 from the Friendly’s restaurant parking lot just before 11 a.m., Riverhead police said.

The motorcyclist, who was heading east at the time, was transported across the street to the hospital by Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance.

Police had not determined if any summonses would be issued.

tgannon@timesreview.com