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Driver plows SUV into Riverhead house, then flees into farm field

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | The driver of this SUV drove across a neighboring lawn and into this house.

A 41-year-old man crashed an SUV into a Riverhead house on Tuesday and fled the scene on foot, only to turn himself in to police three hours later after investigators contacted him via cell phone, authorities said.

Michael Murray, who was described as being undomiciled, plowed a relative’s Chevy Blazer into a Roanoke Avenue house just after 5 p.m., taking out a chunk of garage and drawing police, firefighters and utility workers to the scene while canine units and other police searched for him.

He was hiding in a farm field when police later located him, said Riverhead Police Lt. David Lessard.

“He was … about one-quarter of a mile away, out in the dark, kind of hiding in some brush,” he said.

Mr. Murray was charged with leaving the scene of an accident with property damage, then taken to Peconic Bay Medical Center for treatment of minor leg injuries, officials said.

“He was out there in the rain; he was having difficulty walking,” Lt. Lessard said. “He had bruises and contusions. He was walking but hobbling. He couldn’t have stayed out there all night.”

He said Mr. Murray was hiding in a field “dead in the middle” of Roanoke Avenue — where the crash happened — and Horton, Reeves and Sound avenues when police contacted him using a cell phone number given to them by relatives in Wading River, where the car is registered.

Mr. Murray, who is a licensed driver, was not intoxicated at the time, Lt. Lessard said.

“He said he fled because he was afraid,” the lieutenant added.

Investigators learned Mr. Murray was driving a relative’s car, which he did not steal, and was following another car from a local auto repair shop when he lost control for unknown reasons and drove into the white, ranch-style house, damaging the garage and affecting some power lines.

Police were still investigating the exact cause of the crash.

Firefighters at the scene said they suspected the house’s chimney may have been compromised by the impact, and that removing the truck posed a challenge because of the risk of further collapse.

No serious injuries were reported.

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