Truck driver in fatal Baiting Hollow crash won’t face criminal charges

07/21/2011 3:37 PM |

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

The driver of a loaded tractor trailer who lost control on Sound Avenue in late April, crashing into a Maryhaven bus and killing one of its disabled passengers, will not be facing criminal charges, Suffolk County prosecutors said Thursday.

A scan of a Mack truck’s equivalent of an airplane’s black box to determine what happened seconds before the crash found the driver was going the designated speed limit.

It also found no mechanical errors had occurred, authorities said.

“He received one ticket for speed not reasonable, and that ticket still remains,” said Bob Clifford of District Attorney Tom Spota’s office, which investigated the case with Riverhead Police. “He was going the [45 mph] speed limit, but given the weight of his load it was deemed speed not reasonable.”

The driver, Robert Converse, 54, of Bellport, was making his fourth trip that day along Sound Avenue when he lost control along a notoriously steep and winding hill just west of Edwards Avenue in Baiting Hollow.

“He had done three previous trips that day,” Mr. Clifford said. “It was gravel he was hauling. And he had the lawful permit for that gravel.”

No charges were immediately filed after the April 20 crash, either against the driver or the trucking company, Gap Leasing Corp. of East Moriches, although local police had said they expected charges to be coming.

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 could not be reached Thursday for comment.

The speed not reasonable violation carries with it only the potential for a fine, Mr. Clifford said.

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