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Jan 28, 2019 5:52 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Man Who Left His Friend In A Burning Car In Springs Is Sentenced 20 Years Later

Wilson Pantosin of East Hampton was sentenced on Monday. T.E. MCMORROW/POOL PHOTOGRAPHER
Jan 29, 2019 4:46 PM

A fugitive who let his best friend burn to death in a motor vehicle crash almost 20 years ago in Springs was sentenced in State Supreme Court on Monday to serve two to six years in jail and will be deported afterward.

Wilson Pantosin pleaded guilty to manslaughter and other charges. Now 45, he was 25 when, on January 28, 1999, he lost control of his 1995 Dodge Neon on Hog Creek Road while he was intoxicated, according to prosecutors. The district attorney’s office said Mr. Pantosin’s car went into the oncoming lane and onto the southbound shoulder, then struck a tree, utility pole and guy wire before overturning and catching fire.

Mr. Pantosin was able to exit the car, having suffered only minor injuries. He told the East Hampton Town Police, when they responded to the accident, that he had been alone in the vehicle—when, in fact, there was still a passenger, Wilson Illaisaca, 25, of Springs, inside the burning car.

After Springs Fire Department volunteers extinguished the fire, police officers found the remains of Mr. Illaisaca in the passenger seat, according to the DA’s office. Mr. Illaisaca died of “thermal injury and smoke inhalation with blunt force trauma as a contributing factor,” according to the Suffolk County medical examiner.

Erika Illaisaca, 24, was just 4 years old when her father died. On Monday, while standing next to her sister and her mother, Narcisa Chumbi, in the Central Islip courthouse, all with tears in their eyes, she said, “On his last day, you were the last person he got to see. I don’t understand why you didn’t say he was in the car. I wouldn’t wish that for you or anyone else.

“You don’t know how much pain your decision caused my family,” she continued while looking directly at Mr. Pantosin from across the courtroom. “We forgive you … I hope you find peace and make the right decisions.”

“It’s not easy being here,” said Andrea Illaisaca, 25, who was 5 when her father died. “This year, I’m getting married, and he won’t be there to walk me down the aisle.”

“It takes courage to look him in the eyes. It takes even more courage to forgive him,” State Supreme Court Justice Fernando Camacho told the family.

Turning to Mr. Pantosin, whose head was bowed, he said, “You have no idea what courage means.

“I hope for the past 20 years you were looking over your shoulder, and that tortured you,” he added. “You are a coward, and I hope you learn something from them,” he said of Mr. Illaisaca’s family.

The judge said that he “wished” the two- to six-year sentence “could be more.” Mr. Pantosin, a native of Ecuador, will face deportation proceedings after he has completed his sentence.

“Forgive me—he was like my brother,” Mr. Pantosin said through a translator. “The two of us never thought of the consequences.” He added that he had always prayed and sent blessings to his best friend’s daughters.

The judge called the Illaisaca daughters “remarkable women” and added, “Your father would have been proud.”

According to Assistant District Attorney Maggie Bopp, Mr. Pantosin admitted to drinking half a bottle of vodka, half a bottle of wine and six beers the night of the crash. “He remembered the road as blurry,” she said. Approximately 55 minutes after the crash, a toxicology report found Mr. Pantosin’s blood alcohol level to be 0.22 percent, more than twice the legal limit for operating a motor vehicle.

“The family had unanswered questions for 20 years. Today, the family finally has answers and closure,” Ms. Bopp said.

Martin Lorenzotti, of Coello and Lorenzotti PLLC, who represented Mr. Pantosin, said his client was “very remorseful.” He explained that Mr. Pantosin could have faced a maximum of 15 years in prison. “Hopefully, now all of the parties involved can begin to put this horrible incident behind them,” he said.

After posting $1,000 bail at his arraignment at East Hampton Town Justice Court shortly after his arrest in 1999, Mr. Pantosin fled Suffolk County before his next court appearance. He was subsequently indicted, in 2003, for manslaughter and other charges in connection with the crash.

He was identified by law enforcement officers in Harris County, Texas, as having outstanding warrants in Suffolk County, and detectives from the Suffolk County Police Department’s Fugitive Squad were notified and traveled to Texas, where they arrested him at a residence and escorted him back to Suffolk County on February 28, 2018.

Mr. Pantosin pleaded guilty to felony manslaughter, two felony counts of vehicular manslaughter, and two misdemeanor counts of DWI.

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