A horrific tragedy struck an Indian family returning home after watching July 4th fireworks when a pick-up truck crashed head-on into their sedan trapping them in a deadly fire that killed three of them, left one fighting for her life, yet miraculously left an 11-month old baby almost unscathed, thanks to firefighters.
Chandan Gavai, 38, of Middle Island, was declared dead in hospital after the crash in Yaphank around 10:45 p.m. His father Kamalnayan Gavai, 74, and mother Archana Gavai, 60, were killed instantly in the crash. His wife, Manisha Surwade, 32, is fighting for her life at Brookhaven Memorial Hospital Medical Center in East Patchogue as of July 11, with critical burns and head injuries, Suffolk police told Desi Talk. But the infant, identified as “Baby Ibhan,” who only had minor injuries is at Stony Brook University Hospital. Yaphank firefighters rescued the baby from the burning vehicle when they heard cries from inside the car, news reports said. The elder Gavai’s were visiting from India according to the police.
The crash that took place in front of 275 Yaphank-Middle Island Road in Yaphank, in Suffolk County on New York’s Long Island, also killed Gustave Geyer, 25, the driver of the 1990 Chevrolet truck, who according to police was driving recklessly. He hit the 2014 Nissan Altima head-on in a no-passing zone.
Suffolk County Seventh Squad detectives are continuing their investigation into the incident “It’s still an active investigation,” an officer who said he could not comment on the case, told Desi Talk. He also said he could not put a timeframe on Geyer’s autopsy results that might indicate his blood-alcohol level.
Manish Sandbhor, a family friend of the Gavais, told Newsday, the Indian family was returning after watching July 4 fireworks. He also said that Surwade, who was “fighting for her life” was a “very strong person.” He described Chandan Gavai as a close friend and an “easy going” man, with whom he had been on many adventures organized by Surwade, such as indoor sky diving in New Hampshire where Sandbhor lives. “We had really good memories,” Sandbhor told the newspaper.
Chandan Gavai, a graduate of University of Mumbai according to LinkedIn, was a senior programmer and analyst at Broadbridge Financial Services of Edgewood, N.Y., since July 2011. He had worked at several IT companies in Masachusettes as a software engineer since 2007. Surwade studied at the University of Pune, according to her LinkedIn profile.
A July 6 CBS News New York report quoting unnamed sources said Geyer had a blood alcohol level that was twice the legal limit. But police refused to confirm that to Desi Talk. “That information was not generated from our office,” the spokesperson for Suffolk County Police Department said. Geyer’s body has been taken to the medical examiner’s office but no results have been made public yet.
Police said they received several 911 calls about the accident, and many of the callers said Geyer was driving “erratically,” CBSNews reported, adding that investigators believe he was returning from a party when he crashed into the Gavais’ vehicle.
The India Society of Stony Brook has set up a GoFundMe page “To Help Baby Ibhan Gavai.” Dutt Tarigoppula, president of the India Society, said on the site, “In the midst of this tragedy we need to come together and raise as much money as possible to help secure baby Ibhan’s future.”
“Many of you in the community have already begun helping by providing residence and food for the grieving family,” he said. Meanwhile, members of the Gavai family are arriving from India to conduct the funeral, according to media reports.
Chandan Gavai’s Facebook page and GoFundMe site saw an outpouring of sympathy and memories. An old friend, Shauna Brettschneider, said on Facebook that she was feeling heartbroken. “I will miss you buddy… RIP,” she said. “We are praying for her (Manisha) with every breath we take..” said a friend, Renu Punjabi, on the GoFundMe page.