2007-01-26 / Community

'Dizzy' Drivers Escape Death On Cross Bay Boulevard

By Brian Magoolaghan

Vicente Yon's overturned Volvo sits on the side of Cross Bay Boulevard last Sunday.

Vicente Yon's overturned Volvo sits on the side of Cross Bay Boulevard last Sunday.

The drivers of two vehicles involved in separate accidents on Cross Bay Boulevard last weekend are lucky to be alive after both reported nodding out at the wheel and going horribly out of control on the notorious stretch that passes through the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge.

In the first crash, a 38-year-old Belle Harbor woman driving south in a 2004 Toyota SUV blacked out behind the wheel at about 8:45 p.m. last Saturday night, police said. Her vehicle crossed over two lanes of traffic before taking out a tree as it barreled over the median, then it crossed the northbound lanes and went off-road - finally stopping in a marsh area.

The driver, identified as Luz Alessandri, told police she was feeling "dizzy" and then "blacked out." A witness observed her slowing down and trying to pull over to the right hand side of the southbound roadway just before her SUV went wildly out of control. Alessandri, who was wearing her seatbelt, complained of head pain and was taken by Broad Channel Volunteer Ambulance to Peninsula Hospital Center.

A day later, a 60-year-old Arverne man sensed himself blacking out behind the wheel and - in an attempt to keep his vehicle from crossing into the northbound lanes - swerved hard to the right, crossing a bike lane and then striking a tree and a light post, police said. Vicente Yon's 1996 Volvo went airborne, overturned and then burst into flames during the crash, which happened at about 6:30 p.m. Sunday.

Rescue workers quickly pulled Yon from his burning, overturned vehicle, and Yon, who might not have been wearing a seatbelt, was rushed to Jamaica Hospital via EMS ambulance. The extent of his injuries was unknown, but he remained conscious throughout the ordeal.

The section of Cross Bay Boulevard that runs through the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge is notorious for car wrecks, many of them deadly. The major contributing factors are typically speed, weather/road conditions and/or drugs or alcohol. But last weekend's crashes highlight another major cause of accidents: drowsiness.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says drowsiness causes about 100,000 vehicle accidents a year in the United States; about 1,350 result in deaths. Police indicated a loss of consciousness as the sole cause of both Alessandri and Yon's accidents.

An off-duty NYPD sergeant was killed on that section of Cross Bay Boulevard late last year after his BMW smashed into the back of a Department of Sanitation street sweeper. The crash was ruled an accident, but the exact cause was never made public. Sources have said that driver fatigue was also suspected in that crash.

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