DA probes ‘black box’ in fatal Baiting Hollow crash

05/20/2011 1:02 PM |

MICHAEL WHITE FILE PHOTO | Riverhead Police investigate the scene of April 20's fatal crash in Baiting Hollow.

Investigators are checking the Mack truck equivalent of an airplane’s black box to determine what happened seconds before the driver of a loaded tractor trailer lost control on Sound Avenue in late April, crashing into a bus and killing one of its passengers, authorities said.

“The event data recorder from the Mack truck involved in the collision is now in North Carolina at the recorder’s manufacturers’ facility,” said Bob Clifford of Suffolk County District Attorney Tom Spota’s office, which is investigating the case with Riverhead Police. “Information regarding the vehicle’s speed, brake and clutch application and other info from the box will be downloaded.”

“We should have that information in about 8 to 10 weeks,” he added.

No charges have yet been filed against the driver, Robert Converse Jr., 54, of Bellport, or the trucking company, Gap Leasing Corp. of East Moriches, in the April 20 crash, which occured on a notoriously steep and winding hill just west of Edwards Avenue in Baiting Hollow.

The 36-year-old victim, Brian Costello, who was developmentally disabled, had been riding in a bus operated by Maryhaven Center of Hope, which runs several Long Island facilities for the disabled, when almost the entire length of the bus was crushed by the toppling tractor trailer.

Mr. Costello of Mount Sinai, was waked days later in Port Jefferson, where his brother, Robert, said his brother “touched the lives of everybody he met.”

“If you showed him kindness, he was your friend,” he told mourners.

Mr. Converse was not found to have drugs or alcohol in his system at the time of the crash, authorities have said.

The Costello family’s lawyer has not returned a call seeking comment.

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