One year later, they remember fatal hit-and-run victim

01/16/2015 7:00 AM |
Jennifer Callaghan lets go of a red balloon in memory of her husband James. (Credit: Carrie Miller)

Jennifer Callaghan lets go of a red balloon in memory of her husband James. (Credit: Carrie Miller)

Among the hugs and tears shed beside an all too familiar stretch of Main Road Friday morning, laughs and lanterns filled the air long before the sun came up in remembrance of James Callaghan, a Jamesport man who was killed in a hit-and-run while jogging on a foggy Jan. 16 morning just one year ago.

More than 20 people joined at the sign bordering Riverhead and Southold towns at 5:45 a.m., about the same time police believe Mr. Callaghan may have been struck by a “blue metallic” vehicle that fled the scene.

The blue metallic vehicle is one of three vehicles police said hit the jogger that morning, according to prior reports, which indicated he might have had a medical emergency. The drivers of the other vehicles, a car and SUV, stayed at the scene.

No charges have been levied in the case.

Mr. Callaghan’s wife, Jennifer, and two of his four children, Casey, 23, and Erin, 18, where among family and friends writing notes on lanterns and balloons they released up into the cool, dark sky.

“He was everything,” his wife Jennifer said. “He was funny, smart, talented, and athletic, romantic. He was the perfect man. We had a perfect three years together.”

The message the family hoped to send to the local community: “Everybody needs to be vigilant.”

Whether it is drivers, “who should not be texting on their cell phones, or reading or putting on their makeup,” or runners, “who should be running on the opposite side of the road as the traffic, in a well-lit area,” or cyclists who “need to follow the rules of the road,” it takes everyone doing their part to keep area roads safe, Ms. Callaghan said.

“A lot of times, members of each of these different groups don’t obey the rules of the road, and that’s when tragedy happens. And unfortunately, it happened to us.”

She also took time to thank those who supported the family over the past year, including members of the running community and Metoac Crossfit, where Mr. Callaghan had been a member.

“My family has been my rock,” she said, noting the other children, Jessie, 22, and Tom, 15, who were not able to make the day’s memorial.

Police are still seeking information on the vehicle that might have hit Mr. Callaghan, according to Suffolk County Crime Stoppers, which is offering a $5,000 reward for any information leading to an arrest.

Investigators revealed in March that “blue metallic and clear coat finish particles were removed from Callaghan’s clothing,” which did not match the other vehicles involved.

“I wish they would find him,” Ms. Callaghan said of the third driver. “I don’t know how you live your life knowing what you’ve done, so they have to be living through hell. If they would just come forward and make peace with it, we could get some justice, and everyone could try and heal a little bit.”

Anyone with information is asked to call (800) 220-TIPS or Southold police at (631) 765-2600. Calls will be kept confidential.

Windy conditions did not get in the way of Ms. Callaghan's plan to light lanterns in his honor.

Windy conditions did not get in the way of Ms. Callaghan’s plan to light lanterns in his honor.