1 dead in West Haven collision, neighbors recall scene
WEST HAVEN — A Seymour man died in violent, head-on car crash Thursday night involving an East Haven motorist who allegedly was fleeing Orange police following a hit-and-run traffic accident.
Philip Hunt, 54, of Davis Road, who was not involved in the police pursuit, suffered life-threatening injuries in a crash at Meloy Road and died shortly before midnight at Yale New Haven Hospital, police said.
“First and foremost, the thoughts and prayers of the entire Orange Police Department are with the family of Philip Hunt, who unfortunately succumbed to his injuries as a result of the crash in West Haven,” Orange Police Chief Robert Gagne said in a statement Friday.
The Orange Police Department referred further questions to the Connecticut State Police, which is handling the investigation of the crash.
Orange police initially were called to the scene of a crash at Route 34 and Route 152 in Orange, where a minivan had hit another car from behind and fled the scene, going east on Route 34, the Orange Police Department said in a release. Shortly thereafter, Orange police saw a vehicle matching the description traveling south on Dogwood Road near New Haven Avenue. The vehicle, a 2005 Toyota Sienna, had front-end damage and was being operated in an erratic manner, police said.
The vehicle initially slowed to a stop for police on Dogwood Road near Route 1, but then continued east on Route 1, and then south on Meloy Road into West Haven.
The driver, identified as Robert Kryzkij, 45, of East Haven, was traveling east on Meloy Road when he reportedly crossed over the double, yellow center line and entered into the opposing westbound lane. The driver then allegedly sideswiped the left side of a 2006 Scion XA and continued east, ultimately colliding with the front end of 2012 Subaru Outback, driven by Hunt, according to police.
“I was sitting right there (at the window). I was going to shut the TV off and go to bed. ... I heard like a tire burst and then, all of a sudden, ‘BAM!’ I looked out the window, and I saw the driver (of the Subaru) spinning out if of control onto the grass,” said Bruce Jones, who lives on Meloy Road. “I could have sworn I saw the driver’s face.”
The driver and the front passenger of the 2006 Scion XA were uninjured, police said. Robert Kryzkij was taken to Yale New Haven Hospital for treatment of serious injuries.
Tassoula Nicolaou-Jones, Jones’ wife, said the accident “sounded like a tire popping and [then] a big loud ‘pow,’ a big boom, like if something exploded. And then something sounded like it was dragging, like metal. It could have been a muffler or something.”
Jones said people couldn’t help but look at the aftermath, noting that “until you got to the cabin, there was no car. Everything was pushed back. There were no motors. I didn’t see any motors on either car.” He said the Toyota, which was on fire before someone put it out with a fire extinguisher, ended up stopping “right in front of my mailbox. Dead center in the middle of the street,” while the Subaru was against the fence.
Maria Fernandes, who also lives on Meloy Road, said she didn’t see the accident, but she heard “what sounded like thunder.” She said neighbors came out from their homes to see what had happened, believing if neighbors were asleep, they would have awakened.
Nicolaou-Jones said a lot of cars have hit the same curb.
She said she has even seen somebody hit the curb and continue slowly up the hill because the car had a flat tire.
“Sometimes people break two tires,” she said.
Meloy Road was temporarily closed between Ridge and Eileen roads while police investigated but reopened Friday morning.
Orange police said they were working with the West Haven Haven Police Department on the case and cooperating with Connecticut State Police. The original crash at Route 34 and 152 and its connection to the West Haven crash also remains under investigation.
While there is no uniform policy across the state on pursuits of vehicles, many police departments have adopted a version of the International Association of Chiefs of Police model policy for vehicular pursuit.
The model policy says a vehicular pursuit should only be authorized “if the officer has a reasonable belief that the suspect, if allowed to flee, would present a [immediate] danger to human life or cause serious injury.” Pursuits for minor violations are discouraged.
The decision to initiate a pursuit must be weighed against the immediate danger created by the pursuit against potential danger should the suspect remain at large. Unless a greater hazard would result, a pursuit should not be undertaken if the subject can be identified with enough certainty that they can be apprehended at a later time, the policy states.
John DeCarlo, former Branford police chief and an associate professor at the University of New Haven, said that while “looking at a potential loss of life in a police pursuit as opposed to solving a motor vehicle accident are two very different paths,” it’s “literally impossible” to play the “blame game until we have all the facts.”
DeCarlo said there are so many dynamic variables occurring such as whether permission was given by a supervisor, the time frame between the start of the pursuit and when the crash happened and the reasons why the alleged suspect fled and why police pursued, that it’s hard to make a cogent determination.
“The state police will come in and do a really, really thorough investigation,” DeCarlo said. “The reason why they do an investigation is to actually find out all the variables and actions that occurred between the time this pursuit began and the time the crash occurred.”
Anyone with information related to either accident is asked to contact state police at 860-779-4917.