‘Wear Your Seatbelts,’ Coach Warns Following Dramatic Highway Crash

The scene of the July 12 accident on Sunrise Highway.

Pierson Athletic Director Eric Bramoff had a message Tuesday morning: Wear your seatbelt. Still reeling from a Monday night crash that flipped his Mercury Mariner before it came to rest on its roof on the shoulder of Sunrise Highway, he said, “It was insane, I got so lucky.” Another motorist was less lucky, and while, unharmed physically, faces DWI charges in the July 12 crash.

New York State Police arrested Hannah C. Martinez Arias, 23, of Riverhead, and charged her with a misdemeanor count of DWI following the crash.

Troopers said she was driving westbound in the right-hand lane, when she clipped the rear of a pickup truck traveling in front of her after moving to the left-hand lane in an attempt to pass. Ms. Martinez Arias then moved back over into the right-hand lane and struck a third vehicle, driven by Mr. Bramoff, which left the road and overturned on the shoulder. There was a driver and three passengers in the second vehicle, none of whom were injured. Ms. Martinez Arias’ sedan came to a rest on the median a few hundred yards down the road.

The coach was on his way home from a Board of Education meeting at around 8:30 p.m. on Monday night, July 12. He was just west of the Exit 63 westbound ramp in Westhampton when, the educator said, “a car slams into me from behind.” He recalled his car traveling backwards, then a tire catching. “I said to myself, ‘Brace for impact.’”

The car started rolling into a ditch as Mr. Bramoff prayed there were no trees or water in the juggernaut’s path. The airbag deployed and, he said, he initiated an “upside down release seatbelt maneuver” fearing fire.

Both doors were jammed, the driver’s side crushed and the airbag smoking. He was able, after three tries, to kick a door open and, checking himself for injury, saw that only his new suit jacket got dirty.

While interviewing Ms. Martinez Arias, Troopers observed signs of possible alcohol intoxication, according to the police report. She was transported to Peconic Bay Medical Center for evaluation and is due back in Southampton Town Justice Court on August 2.

The Westhampton Beach Fire Department responded, with Second Assistant Chief Larry Saccente first on the scene. Fire police blocked off one westbound lane, having responded with an engine, a rescue truck, and a fire police vehicle. The Westhampton War memorial Ambulance Association was also on hand.

An EMT on the scene, a former student, greeted the athletic director with, “What’s up, Coach Bramoff?” he recalled. And in the next moment, he said to himself, “It’s a goddamn miracle.”