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Jan 18, 2012 12:13 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

State Police: Wrong-Way Driver Was Intoxicated

Jan 18, 2012 12:20 PM

An East Hampton man who was killed in a violent New Year’s Eve crash while driving in the wrong direction on Sunrise Highway in Westhampton was intoxicated, New York State Police said on Wednesday.

James Riley, 60, had a blood alcohol level that was nearly four times the legal limit when he drove his car the wrong way on Sunrise Highway for several miles before hitting an SUV head-on in the westbound lanes, injuring three people, according to preliminary toxicology reports.

Mr. Riley’s blood alcohol content was 0.30, according to New York State Police Investigator Steven Collins. The state limit is 0.08. “That is over three times the legal limit,” Mr. Collins said.

He added that there was no marijuana or cocaine in Mr. Riley’s system at the time of the crash.

Authorities said Mr. Riley was speeding and driving the wrong way—they said he was heading east in the westbound lanes of Sunrise Highway—when he slammed his 1996 Oldsmobile head-on into a 2000 Suzuki being driven by Carlos Bunay, 39, of East Hampton.

Mr. Bunay was pinned inside his overturned car and had to be extracted by Westhampton Beach firefighters before being taken by helicopter to Stony Brook University Medical Center, where he is still recovering from injuries to his lower body. He underwent surgery on Friday, January 6, according to hospital officials.

His partner, Blanca Tenesaci, 38, and the couple’s 9-year-old daughter, Joselyn Tenesaci, suffered non-life-threatening injuries in the crash. Ms. Tenesaci also had to be airlifted to Stony Brook, while her daughter was transported there by Westhampton War Memorial Ambulance.

According to preliminary reports from State Police, Ms. Tenesaci was treated for a broken clavicle while Joselyn broke her leg and also suffered a knee injury. Both Ms. Tenesaci and her daughter were released from the hospital on January 4 and are now recovering at home, according to hospital officials.

State Police said Mr. Riley entered Sunrise Highway at a point west of the accident scene and drove the wrong way for several miles before crashing into Mr. Bunay’s car just east of the Westhampton exit. It is still not clear where he entered Sunrise Highway. Mr. Riley was the only person in his vehicle.

Third-graders at the Springs School, meanwhile, have been busy raising funds for their injured classmate and her family, according to School Superintendent Michael Hartner. The collection is being organized by their teacher, Joan Branche.

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Whats that like 15 drinks?

By C Law (350), Water Mill on Jan 18, 12 12:42 PM
It would be interesting to know the precise alcohol equivalent of 0.30 alcohol blood level content...does that mean one- third of your blood level hs alcohol in it? I agree with the first comment, sounds like the wrong way driver had cosumed at least two six packs of beer by himself and then went for a drive. However, it seems like a " death wish " may be part of this equation, since someone from Easthampton HAD to know they were entering 27 the wrong way. There are MORE than enough red lettered ...more
By Vikki K (490), Southampton on Jan 18, 12 12:57 PM
A blood alcohol level of .30 means that .3% of your bloodstream is composed of alcohol or 3 grams of alcohol per 1,000 grams of an individual's blood.
By Court (10), Courtney Ratcliffe, 27east.com on Jan 18, 12 2:54 PM
for the average person one drink ( a 12 oz beer, small glass of wine or one ounce or "shot" of liquor) equates to .02 bac. .30 would be 15 drinks consumed at the same time-- the body also metabolizes or eliminates approx .015 to .02 % alcohol per hour
By CaptainSig (716), Dutch Harbor on Jan 18, 12 4:53 PM
Is anyone really surprised by this news? Anyone with half a brain could have figured out this guy was wasted. Luckily the family he injured is healing. Let this be a lesson, don't drink and drive its really not that hard to do!
By Jennyinny (1), Manorville on Jan 18, 12 1:48 PM
Has the Southampton Press made any inquiries as to where Mr. Riley was prior to the crash? A restaurant? A private party? I'm not suggesting that the blame does not fall squarely on Mr. Riley's shoulders...it certainly does. Just wondering if there's another angle to this story. As Mr. Riley was from Easthampton, it's logical to assume that he was drinking around other people while in the Westhampton area. Seems to me it would be hard to go unnoticed at that level of intoxication.
By Good Ground (24), Hampton Bays on Jan 18, 12 2:14 PM
Actually the blame could fall quite heavily on whomever was serving him drinks before the crash. NYS dram laws prohibit a commercial establishment from serving an obviously intoxicated person or one who is known to be a habitual drunk. In some states (not sure about NY), private party hosts could also be found liable. Ironically, the drunk driver (should he or she have survived a crash) could sue as well as their victims. I wonder whether the family of a drunk driver killed in a crash, as Riley ...more
By bailey (52), East Hampton on Jan 18, 12 2:46 PM
1 member liked this comment
That's what I was getting at. To the extent someone over-served Mr. Riley or allowed him to get behind the wheel, that someone would certainly have some responsibility and potentail liability. I just wanted to be clear that to the extent someone else shares the blame, it does not abdicate Mr. Riley's ultimate responsibilty here.
By Good Ground (24), Hampton Bays on Jan 18, 12 4:55 PM
1 member liked this comment
People drink at home too.
By squeaky (291), hampton bays on Jan 18, 12 4:58 PM
True. Then maybe the question becomes whether anyone in his house knew he was drunk and made no attempt to stop him from getting behind the wheel.
By bailey (52), East Hampton on Jan 19, 12 9:13 AM
Ulitmately, its his blame to take. You cannot blame his family any more than you can blame aserial killers children. Thats not fair. Its human nature to want to know why. Its not something we may ever know. People that drink that much, generally do it at home, alone and without anyone to see. Take it from the former wife of a raging alcoholic.
By squeaky (291), hampton bays on Jan 19, 12 9:56 AM
BAC .25-.30
Drinkers display general inertia, near total loss of motor functions, little response to stimuli, inability to stand or walk, vomiting, and incontinence. Drinkers may lose consciousness or fall into a stupor.
BAC .30-.50
Symptoms are complete unconsciousness, depressed or absent reflexes, subnormal body temperature, incontinence, and impairment of circulation and respiration.

Death may occur at .37% or higher. BACs of .45% and higher are fatal to nearly all ...more
By HogCreek (7), East Hampton on Jan 18, 12 2:30 PM
Unless you're a hardcore drunk. They could build up a tolerance for a higher BAC and may not act as drunk as the rest of us might on the same number of drinks. I'm not saying Riley was an alcoholic, just noting that those general symptoms may not apply to everyone.
By bailey (52), East Hampton on Jan 18, 12 2:50 PM
1 member liked this comment
So sad! And to think I was coming home from a trip at about the same time, yet turned off 111 onto Eastport South Manor road and came home that way vice the sunrise to exit 63s. Mr. Riley had to be in the same area I was since the accident happened around 6:45 and I walked in my house at about 6:40. He probably got on the wrong way at the traffic light at the end of 111 instead of going underneath the overpass and hanging the left onto the entrance ramp. That intersection would probably confuse ...more
By sayitaintsojoe (100), Westhampton on Jan 18, 12 3:20 PM

that intersection needs to be eliminated so no traffic can mistakingly make that turn . the DOT should make two entrance ramps for that bad area make the existing ramp RIGHT TURN only for south bound 111 traffic .Then install another entrance ramp some half mile further west on sunrise to eliminate that terrible intersection so all traffic is all going the same way as to continue to procede to eastport or moriches via that original service road . Ther are no obstuctions in the way to make this ...more
By baymen (26), hamptonbays on Jan 18, 12 3:42 PM
Sorry i meant northbound 111
By baymen (26), hamptonbays on Jan 18, 12 3:59 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By bchgrl83 (52), Westhampton Beach on Jan 18, 12 4:36 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By ....Loading (3), Southampton on Jan 19, 12 6:45 AM
Not seeing any glowing character references for Mr Riley this morning !
By Bill in Riverhead (190), Riverhead on Jan 19, 12 7:17 AM
2 members liked this comment
Yes...if anyone knew his whereabouts prior to driving in that state of drunkeness, they should step up and at least advise the police. Accepting the responsibility for making such a report should not, however, be tantamount to accepting the liability for the accident. Chances are everyone's judgement was impaired in a situation of drunkeness similar to the wrong way driver's. NO bartender on the East End would allow someone THAT drunk to get in a car and drive.
By Vikki K (490), Southampton on Jan 19, 12 5:06 PM
Folks, when are we going to get the lesson? How many lives need to be lost? You CANNOT drink and drive. All abilities will be impaired and you will KILL yourself or others. Stop teaching our children the wrong thing to do. Please - let's not lose another life. Stop with this senseless destructive behavior. Get help - if you see someone that needs help - don't assume someone else is stepping in - just stop killing each other.
By bchgrl83 (52), Westhampton Beach on Jan 19, 12 5:16 PM
2 members liked this comment
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By ....Loading (3), Southampton on Jan 20, 12 6:38 AM
What he did was horrible and resulted in great tragedy. But the man still has family who loved him. there is no silver lining to be found here.
By tm (174), mtk on Jan 20, 12 9:25 AM