One critical, two seriously injured, following car accident in Great Kills section of …

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — A two-vehicle accident in Great Kills Wednesday evening left one person in critical condition and two others with serious injuries, according to a spokesman for the FDNY.

The accident occurred about 9:30 p.m. on a sinuous stretch of Amboy Road near Sherwood Place — a locale notorious for crashes, according to several neighbors in the area.

Witnesses said the two cars hit head-on as they were traveling in opposite directions along a curve on Amboy Road. According to a witness, a pedestrian was struck and pinned under one of the cars, and appeared to be seriously injured.

“I came outside and saw the guy lying under the car … he was having trouble breathing and someone was holding his hand,” said the resident, who declined to give his name.

As of late Wednesday, police would not confirm that a pedestrian had been struck.

According to a family friend of one of the drivers involved in the crash, a car heading north on Amboy swerved and hit her vehicle as she traveled in the opposite direction.

“The guy was driving on the wrong side of the street. … He hit her head-on,” said Nino Gaudino.

Several residents complained of constant traffic problems along that stretch of Amboy.

“This is a very, very bad area,” said John Cimino, who has lived there for 14 years, and noted he has seen many accidents over the years. “It’s a blind turn and they speed.”

Peter McPolin, retired cop, a hero, recalled for dedication to career, family

PARSIPPANY, N.J. — Peter John McPolin, 53, of Great Kills, a retired sergeant decorated 15 times during a heroic but injury-shortened 12-year NYPD career, who became a successful and charitable entrepreneur, died Monday in a highway accident in New Jersey.

Mr. McPolin was traveling alone on Route 80 about 3:30 p.m. when his GMC Yukon veered off the highway and struck a tree. He was returning to Staten Island from the vacation home he had built in Hawley, Pa.

Authorities are investigating the cause of the crash, including the possibility that Mr. McPolin, who had a degenerative cardiac condition, suffered a heart attack behind the wheel.

He joined the NYPD in 1984 and served as a patrolman in Manhattan before a transfer to the elite Emergency Service Unit on Staten Island. After being promoted to sergeant in 1989, he served as a boss in the 120th, 122nd and 123rd precincts, before becoming a key supervisor on the Staten Island Task Force.

When Borough Command created a “debriefing unit” in the 1990s, Sgt. McPolin was tapped as the first supervisor, charged with grilling newly arrested suspects to extract their knowledge of other crimes and criminals, and he was often called upon to give presentations at the monthly Compstat meetings at 1 Police Plaza in Manhattan. While many police supervisors found Compstat notoriously intimidating, Sgt. McPolin reveled in the high-stakes QA conferences before top NYPD brass.

Known as a popular and fearless cop with a linebacker-sized, 6-foot-1 frame — and an even bigger personality — he was elected precinct delegate to the Sergeants Benevolent Association, and union members later chose him to be the borough director of the powerful SBA.

Around this time, Mr. McPolin became active in political affairs and was a key campaign supporter of then-Borough President Guy V. Molinari. He was a lifelong friend of former South Shore City Councilman Fred Cerullo, who grew up around the corner from the McPolin family. 

But he was far from a desk jockey and found himself in the midst of more than a few life-and-death dramas, including a shootout with a gunman barricaded inside the former Roberto’s Restaurant in Stapleton.

In 1994, he faced a gunman again. While off-duty and unarmed in West Brighton, Sgt. McPolin was confronted by three teens, one brandishing a 9mm handgun. After they took his phone, Sgt. McPolin chased them down in his SUV, despite a fusillade of bullets that lodged in a headrest and blew out a tire. Undeterred, he and his partner leaped out of the truck and apprehended one of the muggers, who led detectives to the triggerman.

“It wasn’t until the whole thing was over that we realized we were nuts,” the sergeant told the Advance at the time. 

Sgt. McPolin found himself in the middle of one of the borough’s most memorable manhunts a few months later, on Feb. 28, 1995, when a 40-year-old woman was shot point-blank in the chest by a carjacker in the parking lot of the Staten Island Mall.

Sgt. McPolin spotted the suspect’s car in Clifton, and during a 30-block chase, was able to broadcast his location so that police could set up roadblocks.

Eventually cornered, the gunman, Bjorn Gunn, smashed his car into Sgt. McPolin’s patrol car and careened into a home on Hillside Avenue, where he was finally apprehended.

In 1988, as an ESU officer, he helped save a seriously hurt worker who had fallen precariously on the Outerbridge Crossing, using a special basket hoist to retrieve him. Another worker died.

And he loved to tell the story of rescuing a bearded man on a tiny raft in the Narrows who claimed he was sailing to Europe. 

He was twice named Staten Island Advance Police Officer of the Month in the same year. He received two commendations from the NYPD, and was cited seven times for “excellent police duty,” and six times for “meritorious police duty.”

Sgt. McPolin was forced to retire on full disability in 1995 when he suffered a line-of-duty injury while subduing a suspect in Bay Terrace.

But injury, retirement and a worsening heart condition did not deter Mr. McPolin from jumping on one of the first Staten Island ferryboats to carry rescuers to Ground Zero on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001. A few days later, when he learned that a friend wanted to help look for his Cantor Fitzgerald broker-brother, Mr. McPolin hopped in his own motorboat to ferry the man across the harbor, only to be stopped at riflepoint by a Coast Guard cutter. When the crew learned of his mission, they allowed him to pass.

In retirement, Mr. McPolin continued to manage and nurture a business he had begun as a police officer, Finest Fence Co., which grew into one of the borough’s largest fence-installation contractors. He was known to put up free fences for 9/11 widows, Hurricane Sandy victims and the Staten Ireland fair, and to do work at a discount for non-profits like Meals on Wheels and Monsignor Farrell High School, his alma mater. He learned to speak Spanish fluently, in order to communicate with his workers.

On Feb. 9, he shared his life philosophy with his Facebook friends: “Every day is a learning opportunity that you should take to heart. It takes a lot more energy to hate than love. Life is something you take for granted until you lose a loved one, friend or an acquaintance. Do yourself a favor and live life to the fullest. Look in the eyes of a child or your child and realize that every word you speak and every action you make doesn’t only affect you but everyone you touch.”

Mr. McPolin attended St. Clare’s School, and served as an altar boy at the parish as a youngster. He remained a parishioner for the rest of his life.

He was a member of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, Division 4; the NYPD Emerald Society; the Elks Club in Greenridge, and the Staten Island Council, Knights of Columbus. in Great Kills.

Born in Brooklyn, he was brought to Great Kills as a child.

He earned an associate’s degree from Empire State College.

An avid sports fisherman, Mr. McPolin and his father, the late Peter McPolin, berthed a 28-foot cabin cruiser at the Atlantic Marina in Tottenville for many years. More recently, he would fish for shark, marlin and sailfish in Costa Rica, Mexico and Florida. He once landed an 800-pound bull shark off the coast of Fort Lauderdale.

He loved to travel with his longtime companion, Jamie Hatton-Cregin, and visited Ireland, Venezuela, Puerto Rico and, just two weeks ago, Belgium and France. On Sunday, he returned from a cruise to Cozumel, Mexico, and the Grand Caymans. When in Florida, he spent time with his aunt and uncle, Paul and Evangeline McPolin, formerly of Great Kills.

He enjoyed golfing, and loved the Yankees, Knicks and Jets. For a decade, he was a Jets season-ticket holder and would often man the grill at tailgate parties with Ms. Hatton-Cregin, his brother and his cousins. A student of Irish history, he enjoyed marching in the St. Patrick’s Parade in West Brighton. He was a master at Scrabble, which was considered bloodsport among the McPolins.

An animal lover, Mr.McPolin owned two Rottweilers, a lizard, a puggle and a rabbit named Jefferson.

Surviving, in addition to his companion, Ms. Hatton-Cregin, are his daughters, Shannon, Amanda, Vanessa and Tiffany McPolin; his mother, Mary Alice McPolin; his brother, Jeffrey; his sister, Jeanette McPolin, and three nieces and a nephew. 

The funeral will be Saturday from the Casey McCallum Rice South Shore Funeral Home, Great Kills, with a mass at 9:45 a.m. in St. Clare’s Church. Burial will follow in Resurrection Cemetery, Pleasant Plains.

Staten Island man killed in one-car crash in East New York section of Brooklyn

A Staten Island man died Tuesday morning after the car he was driving slammed into a light pole in East New York, police said.

Police identified the victim as Phillip Crucilla, 47, of Sandalwood Drive, Great Kills.

At 9:59 a.m., police responded to a 911 call for a single car collision at the intersection of Sutter Avenue and Williams Avenue in Brooklyn, according to an NYPD release.

Upon arrival, officers discovered a 47-year-old male — later identified as Crucilla — unconscious and unresponsive in the driver’s seat of the vehicle. EMS responded and transported Crucilla to Brookdale Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Cops say a preliminary investigation found Crucilla was “traveling westbound on Sutter Ave in a 2003 GMC SUV when he struck a signal light pole at the northwest corner of Williams Avenue.” There were no other vehicles involved or injuries reported as a result of this collision.

A man living at the address police provided for Crucilla said
Crucilla was his landlord, but lived elsewhere. He was visibly upset about Crucilla’s death, and called him a “great, great guy,”
who was like a brother.

Other Sandalwood Drive residents said Crucilla had once lived on their block, but that he had moved a few years ago. They did not know where he was currently living.

Former NYPD sergeant from Staten Island killed in New Jersey car accident

Peter-McPolin-Staten-IslandPeter McPolin, pictured here wearing his NYPD uniform.

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — A retired NYPD sergeant was killed Monday afternoon in Parsippany, N.J., after the vehicle he was driving struck a tree.

Peter McPolin, 53, of Great Kills, lost control of his 2011 GMC Yukon and crashed into a tree along the center median of Route 80, said New Jersey State Police Trooper Jeff Flynn. The accident happened at about 3:31 p.m.

McPolin was transported to Morristown Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead at 4:14 p.m., said Flynn.

The accident is under investigation, said police.

HONORED FOR HEROICS

In 1995, McPolin was a recipient of the Police Officer of the Month Award from the Advance for an act of bravery that occurred the previous November.

According to Advance archives, McPolin and his then-NYPD partner, both unarmed, were approached by three young armed teens who demanded their wallets and a cellular phone.

“The phone was handed over and the youths fled,”  the Advance reported in November 1994. “Sgt. Peter McPolin and his partner, Sgt. John Agugliaro, both unarmed, went after the 12-year-old suspect in McPolin’s truck and caught up to him even as another of the suspects pegged a couple of shots at them, barely missing the cops, police said.

“The alleged shooter, 13 years old, was apprehended in his apartment by detectives about seven hours after the incident.”

McPolin is the cousin of former Advance city editor Paul McPolin.

OUTPOURING OF SYMPATHY

Friends and relatives shared their condolences by posting to his Facebook page Monday and Tuesday.

“Even before I shook your hand for the first time, I walked in and bought you a round at the Pines because you were wearing the Green and White. Your J-E-T-S chant will always ring out loud and strong. A man among men, you will surely be missed. A tear in my eye and a drink sitting on the bar for you. Going to miss you, Pete. Watch over the ones you love with a big grin,” wrote Michael Score.

Sean Mahon posted on McPolin’s page: “RIP Pete. You were a brother, mentor and friend.”

The last update made by the retired cop was on Sunday at 8:18 p.m. He said “Goin home sucks,” and tagged himself at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in Florida.

“Just passing through. Went on a cruise,” he wrote in the Facebook comment section.

Below the post was a message from Shannon McPolin: “this is the longest we haven’t spoken! I’m having withdrawals!! i hope your having fun but come backkkkk!!!!!! i miss you!!!!”

On Feb. 9, McPolin wrote about living life to the fullest.

“Every day is a learning opportunity that you should take to heart. It takes a lot more energy to hate than love,” wrote the Staten Island man. “Life is something you take for granted until you lose a loved one friend or an acquaintance. Do yourself a favor and live life to the fullest. Look in the eyes of a child or your child and realize that every word you speak and every action you make doesn’t only effect you but everyone you touch.”

Staten Island driver admits to leaving scene of fatal crash that claimed 4-year …

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — John Sanjurjo maintained authorities had the “wrong guy” when they charged him with leaving the scene of a deadly accident last summer in Dongan Hills that claimed a 4-year boy’s life.

Turns out they had the right guy, after all.

Sanjurjo, 34, has pleaded guilty to a felony charge of leaving an incident without reporting to police, stemming from an Aug. 9 episode in which he fatally struck little Kyrillos Gendy, of South Amboy, N.J.

The victim, his mother, Erieny Thomas, 34, and his sister, Gabriella Gendy, then 7, were crossing Richmond Road around 8:25 p.m., when Sanjurjo ran into all of them, said prosecutors.

Family members said Kyrillos suffered severe internal bleeding and head trauma. His mother suffered minor lacerations, and his sister a broken ankle.

Sanjurjo, who was driving a 2013 Mercedes-Benz registered in his name, didn’t turn himself into police until some 16 hours after the incident, authorities said.

Just before the crash, the victims had been visiting the home of Ms. Thomas’ sister on Richmond for a prayer service.

Ms. Thomas and her children were crossing Richmond to their silver Nissan Pathfinder when Sanjurjo plowed into the family, fatally injuring the young boy, said Kyrillos’ cousin, Adam Gendy.

They had been crossing near Diddle Dee Bagel and Deli. They were not near an intersection, crosswalk or traffic-control device, said Sanjurjo’s lawyer.

Prosecutors said the black sedan used in the hit-and-run still had food remnants on its exterior — leftover rice and noodles that the family had been carrying to their car.

Family and friends described Kyrillos as a well-behaved, fun-loving child who loved participating in church activities with his older sister.

“It’s an unspeakable tragedy for the family and the parents of the young boy, but this plea enabled us to have closure as much as legally possible in the criminal justice system,” said Patrick V. Parrotta, Sanjurjo’s lawyer. “My client is absolutely beside himself and filled with remorse.”

Parrotta said Sanjurjo panicked and left the scene, and had no criminal culpability beyond those actions.

“There was no reckless driving … no traffic infraction, no speeding, no disobeying a red light, stop sign or traffic-control device,” said Parrotta.

He said the impact was at “relatively low speed — possibly 15 mph.”

The victims were crossing in the middle of the street, a good distance from the corner, he said.

Prior to his arraignment last August Sanjurjo told reporters, “You got the wrong guy, man” when approached outside Stapleton Criminal Court.

Parrotta said his client has taken responsibility for his actions.

Under his top-count plea, Sanjurjo will be sentenced April 11 in state Supreme Court, St. George, to six months in jail and five years’ probation, said a spokesman for District Attorney Daniel Donovan.

He potentially faces up to two and a-third to seven years in prison if he violates probation, the spokesman said, declining further comment.

Reached by phone, Ms. Thomas and her husband declined comment.

Assistant District Attorney Mark Palladino is prosecuting the case.

Car crash takes out hydrant in Great Kills, floods portion of Giffords Lane (with …

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — A two-vehicle accident that took out a fire hydrant on Giffords Lane Monday evening turned the road into a small river as water rocketed out from the sidewalk like a geyser.

“It looked like a movie — the water was really rushing out,” said Maureen Seaquist, who heard the crash from her home.

A portion of Giffords Lane in Great Kills flooded after one car flipped over into the fire hydrant near Fairfield Street just after 8 p.m., said Battalion Chief John Gregorio.

Water continued to pour out into the street for nearly an hour before workers from the Department of Environmental Protection arrived on scene to seal the valve.

One person was transported to Staten Island University Hospital, Ocean Breeze, with minor injuries, according to fire officials.

“Water to houses in the area may be partially affected for a while,” the chief said. Several callers to the Advance reported brown water issuing from their taps in Great Kills and Eltingville.

6 hospitalized, utility pole toppled in crash outside West Brighton church

A two-car crash outside of Calvary Presbyterian Church in West Brighton Sunday sent six people to the hospital and left a utility pole, supported only by the car that struck it, leaning precariously into the intersection of Castleton Avenue and Bement Avenue.

Details of the collision, which involved a black Honda sedan and a black GMC Yukon, are unclear at this time, Batallion 22 Chief John Calderone said. Both cars had serious front-end damage. The Honda was lodged against the pole at the corner of the intersection, in front of the church.

All occupants of both cars — four in the Yukon and two in the Honda — were taken to Richmond University Medical Center with serious, but not life-threatening injuries, Calderone said.

As of 11:20 a.m., about a half-hour after the accident occurred, no power outages had been reported, but given the tenuous situation, it could be only a matter of time before service is affected.

“There’s nothing holding that pole up,” Calderone said at the scene. “It’s sunk a good 4-5 feet since we’ve been here.”

Fire crews were waiting for Con Edison to arrive at the scene to stabilize the light pole as of 11:30 a.m.

Yellow police tape blocked the intersection in all directions.

Staten Island man indicted for manslaughter, DWI, in death of man walking to his …

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — The alleged drunken driver who authorities say slammed into and killed a 67-year-old man walking to a parked car three weeks ago on the East Shore has been indicted on manslaughter and other charges.

Michael Pogorzelski pleaded not guilty at his recent arraignment in state Supreme Court, St. George, stemming from the Jan. 26 incident on the Arrochar-South Beach border.

Authorities allege Pogorzelski, 39, was drunk and driving a Lexus SUV at a high rate of speed along a curved stretch of Capodanno Boulevard up toward Lily Pond Avenue when he hit a parked van, bounced off it, and struck James Benedict.

Benedict, of Dongan Halls and his family were walking in the bike lane to get to their parked car because the sidewalk was reportedly covered in ice. The incident occurred at 6:55 p.m.

Benedict was rushed to Staten Island University Hospital, Ocean Breeze, where he was pronounced dead.

Pogorzelski, an Ocean Breeze resident, registered a blood alcohol content of .139 percent, according to court documents, well above the state’s .08 legal threshold for driving while intoxicated.

His lawyer, Aaron M. Wallenstein said Friday the combination of icy roads, limited visibility, and a turn that would have been difficult for anyone to negotiate were the main factors in the crash — regardless of whether or not his client had been drinking.

He called Benedict’s death “a tragic accident” — a claim the victim’s family and prosecutors refute.

The manslaughter charge accuses Pogorzelski of driving “at a high rate of speed in excess of the speed limit,” failing to safely negotiate a turn, entering the bicycle lane and hitting a parked van. He remained in the bicycle lane and then struck the victim, said court documents.

A vehicular manslaughter charge accuses the defendant of driving drunk.

The victim’s family said Benedict, his nephew and his nephew’s two sons had been celebrating one of the boys’ birthday in Manhattan. Afterward, a limousine dropped them off near their parked car on Capodanno.

They attempted to navigate the icy sidewalk to reach their car, but slipped and were forced to walk in the bike lane, according to their family and sources.

Besides second-degree manslaughter and vehicular manslaughter, Pogorzelski was charged with a felony count of assault, according to information from District Attorney Daniel Donovan’s office. He’s also accused of misdemeanor counts of driving while intoxicated and criminal mischief, the latter charge for allegedly damaging the parked van.

He remains free on $50,000 bond and must return to court on March 7 for a conference.

Pogorzelski could face a maximum of five to 15 years in prison if convicted of second-degree manslaughter.

‘It’s just an accident. I just hit a parked car,’ said drunken driving suspect on …

nypd-siren.jpgKathleen Woodford, 50, in West Brighton, was driving a 1996 GMC Jimmy when she struck a parked 2005 Chrysler PT Cruiser and hit a tree on the 100 block of Harvest Avenue about 11:20 p.m. Sunday, police allege.
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — A drunken driver tried to play down her late-night encounter with a parked car and a tree as “just an accident,” according to police.

Kathleen Woodford, 50, of Oakland Avenue in West Brighton, was driving a 1996 GMC Jimmy when she struck a parked 2005 Chrysler PT Cruiser and hit a tree on the 100 block of Harvest Avenue about 11:20 p.m. Sunday, police allege.

According to court papers, Ms. Woodford told police, “I’m all right. No, I don’t drink. I was going to pick my son off Manor. I don’t have my license. It’s just an accident. I just hit a parked car.”

A test revealed her blood alcohol level measured at .18 percent, more than twice the .08 percent legal threshold for driving while intoxicated, and just at the threshold for the more serious charge of aggravated driving while intoxicated, court papers allege.

Kin of victim in DWI crash on Staten Island react to defendants’ claim that alcohol …

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — The driver who police say struck and killed a 67-year-old family man Sunday evening blamed poor road conditions, not his blood alcohol content, according to his lawyer.

James Benedict, 67, of Dongan Hills was killed Sunday evening after being hit by a car while walking on Capodanno Boulevard. (family photo)

“He didn’t die because of the DWI case — it was a tragic accident,” said the defendant’s attorney, Aaron M. Wallenstein.

Michael Pogorzelski, 39, was arraigned Monday in Stapleton Criminal Court on second-degree vehicular manslaughter charges in connection with the death of James Benedict of Dongan Hills.

He was additionally charged with driving while intoxicated and reckless driving.

Pogorzelski registered a blood alcohol content of .139 percent, according to court documents, well above the .08 legal threshold for driving while intoxicated.

His lawyer claimed that a combination of icy roads and limited visibility along the stretch of Capodanno Boulevard near Lily Pond Avenue where the accident occurred were the main factors in the 6:55 p.m. crash.

“While he may or may not have been driving while intoxicated, this accident actually occurred because of the conditions outside, and the conditions in general for where that location is,” said the attorney.

After hearing the defense, the victim’s family responded with disgust.  

“An accident is an accident, but that was no accident,” said Maria Benedict, wife of the victim’s nephew.

“Somebody lost their life because of him — because he wanted to drink and drive. He should pay for it,” she said.

The day of the crash, her husband, David, celebrated his son’s 13th birthday with a “guys’ day out” in Manhattan, that included his other son and Uncle James — the victim in Sunday’s fatal accident.

“That’s what they decided to do for my son’s birthday and this is what they were put up against,” said Ms. Benedict.

A limousine dropped the family off near their car that was parked along Capodanno Boulevard, but they were forced to walk in the bike lane because the sidewalk was reportedly covered in ice.

“They tried to walk on it but they were slipping so they decided to walk in the bike lane to avoid falling on the ice,” said Ms. Benedict.

As they continued to the car, Pogorzelski was driving a Lexus SUV heading up Capodanno Boulevard toward Lily Pond when he hit a parked vehicle, bounced off it, and struck Benedict, said police.

Benedict was rushed to Staten Island University Hospital, Ocean Breeze, where he was pronounced dead.

It’s unclear which city agency is ultimately responsible for clearing the sidewalk on Capodanno Boulevard, which sits adjacent to Fort Wadsworth.

A representative for the National Parks Service, which runs the grounds, did not respond to a request for comment.

Meanwhile, all the victim’s family could do was mourn the loss of their “Uncle Red.”

“My kids were very close with him — it’s going to be a disturbing situation for them,” said Ms. Benedict.

“He always put a smile on their faces. That’s what we keep thinking about — all the laughs and all the good times we had together. He was just a goofy guy — he was the uncle who was 67 but acted like he was 12.”

Bail was set at $50,000. Pogorzelski’s next court date is scheduled for Feb. 14.