Girlfriend: Wrong-way driver killed in crash liked to ‘live life’

Gustavo Palma said goodbye to his girlfriend around 10 p.m. last Saturday night before heading out to a nightclub to meet up with friends.

Neither had any idea they’d never see each other again.

Some six hours later, about 4 a.m. Sunday, Mr. Palma, 23, of Wood Road Trail in Flanders, somehow ended up driving the wrong way into oncoming traffic on the Long Island Expressway in Jericho, where he was killed after smashing his 2008 Honda Civic into an oncoming 2012 Mercedes Benz sedan, Nassau County police said.

The crash happened east of Exit 41 on the LIE, where Mr. Palma was heading east in the westbound lanes. He crashed shortly afterward and was pronounced dead at the scene, police said. It wasn’t known how he entered the wrong side of the highway.

“I can’t believe it’s happened,” Amy Velasquez, Mr. Palma’s live-in girlfriend, told the News-Review. “I don’t even know why he was going the wrong way.”

Ms. Velasquez said she was unsure if Mr. Palma had been drinking that night. Police made no reference to alcohol in press releases about the crash. A police spokesperson said last week the cause of the accident was still under investigation.

An unidentified 24-year-old female passenger in Mr. Palma’s car remains in critical condition at Nassau University Medical Center, police said this week.

Ms. Velasquez said she didn’t know the name of the passenger, but said she is someone they both met at a local church.

The driver of the Mercedes, 49-year-old Joe Deguardia of Westchester, also survived the crash, which shut down the LIE in both directions for several hours. Mr. Deguardia, a well-known boxing promoter, told Newsday that Mr. Palma’s car’s headlights appeared to be off before the crash.

“I have to look at it that I’m blessed that people were there to help,” Mr. Deguardia said.

Ms. Velasquez described Mr. Palma as a fun-loving guy.

“He was that person who likes to go out,” she said. “He just liked to have fun and live life.”

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