One night, two DWI crashes for Riverhead victim reeling from costs

DWI, Donaldo Arias, Riverhead police
PAUL SQUIRE PHOTOS | Donaldo Arias’ Cadillac (right) was hit first at East Main and Phillips streets. He was then driving his brother’s Lexus when it was struck 3 1/2 hours later near the same intersection.

Donaldo Arias smiles as he talks about the night two alleged drunken drivers crashed into two vehicles Mr. Arias was driving in the span of a few hours.

He smiles not out of joy but disbelief.

Mr. Arias sighs loudly, his grin more a grimace as he wonders how this seemingly impossible set of circumstances happened to him, of all people.

He tries not to dwell on the past or his poor run of luck. More pressing in Mr. Arias’ mind now is the thousands of dollars in repairs he will have to pay to fix the battered vehicles; neither man accused of DWI, he said, had insurance.

“I lost everything, I think,” he said. “It’s not my fault. How do I pay?”

Mr. Arias and a female passenger were injured twice this weekend when two drunken drivers crashed into his vehicles at the same Riverhead intersection, authorities said.

Two men were arrested on drunken driving charges in the incidents, Riverhead police said.

In the first instance, Mr. Arias was driving a Cadillac sedan near the OK Petroleum gas station on East Main Street and Phillips Street about 11:30 p.m. Saturday when he was rear-ended by Byron Juarez, 21, of East Hampton, police said.

Mr. Juarez’ vehicle was disabled after the crash.

Mr. Arias’ brother took the two victims to Peconic Bay Medical Center after the accident for treatment of minor injuries, Mr. Arias said; Mr. Juarez remained on the scene and was arrested, according to police.

Mr. Arias and his passenger later drove back to the scene in a Lexus SUV owned by Mr. Arias’ brother to get house keys from the damaged Cadillac. As the two were driving out of the same intersection, they noticed a vehicle traveling south on East Main Street on the wrong side of the road.

“I go back [to the scene] and there’s a driver coming,” Mr. Arias said. “Somebody’s coming from there and they lose control.”

The second vehicle collided head-on with the Lexus about 3 a.m. Sunday, police said. The driver of this vehicle, Cornelio Lopez, 31, of Riverhead, was also found to be driving drunk, state police said.

Mr. Arias, his passenger and Mr. Lopez were all taken to Peconic Bay Medical Center to be treated for their injuries. Both Mr. Lopez and Mr. Juarez were charged with driving while intoxicated, authorities said.

But neither driver had insurance, meaning that Mr. Arias has been forced to pick up the repair bills, he said. Mr. Arias said the two drivers, who had out-of-state license plates, had allowed their insurance to expire. Mr. Arias said he would consult a lawyer to see if he could sue the drivers, but expected he wouldn’t be able to afford the legal fees.

“My question is, why do the police allow people to drive with plates from other states when they don’t have insurance, nothing?” he said. He’s noticed, he said, that local police have cracked down on drunken driving in recent months, noting he’s been stopped four times by police when he has done nothing wrong.

Still, Mr. Arias said he understands it is difficult for police to enforce the law without pulling over innocent motorists.

“It’s hard, you know?” he said. “It’s not easy for the police to stop all the drunk driving.”

Mr. Arias said the real responsibility lies with drivers, who need to take responsibility for their safety and the safety of others on the road and not drink and drive.

“I think it’s personal,” Mr. Arias said.

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