July 28, 2004
'He Was Superman to Us'; Suffolk County, N.Y. Cop Dies in Single-Car Crash
Officer Down: Edwin Hernandez - [Suffolk, New York]
By Jennifer Sinco Kelleher, New York Newsday
After helping close the Long Island Expressway for construction
Monday night, Suffolk Police Officer Edwin Hernandez bid his sergeant
and fellow officers goodnight, telling them to be careful.
He had been working the 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. shift for Highway Patrol
and had put in an hour of overtime. Shortly after midnight, he was
heading west on the Northern State Parkway to drop off his 2003 Ford
Crown Victoria patrol car on Route 110 in Huntington and pick up his
own car, Commissioner Richard Dormer said. For some reason, Hernandez
lost control of the patrol car and hit a guardrail, then a tree, near
Deer Park Avenue in Dix Hills.
A passing motorist called 911. After rescue workers arrived, a police
helicopter took Hernandez, 44, of Ridge, to Stony Brook University
Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at about 1 a.m., Dormer said.
Last night, as Hernandez prepared to close the LIE, he talked to his
cousin, Victor Canales, 27, of Holbrook, on his cell phone. Usually,
when Canales was done working as disc jockey "Vic Latino" for
WKTU/103.5 in Jersey City, he would meet Hernandez near Exit 49,
Canales said Tuesday. Following his cousin home as they headed east
was a comforting routine, Canales said.
But when they talked Monday night, Hernandez told him he'd be working
overtime. "He said, 'I'll see you Wednesday,' " Canales recalled. So
near Exit 51, where Hernandez was stationed, they waved at each other
as Canales drove past.
Second Squad detectives were trying to determine what caused the
crash. Police Tuesday were unable to say to say how fast Hernandez
was driving. An autopsy was scheduled for Tuesday.
Hernandez is the first Suffolk police officer to die in the line of
duty in nearly a decade. In 1995, Sgt. Timothy Henck, 30, died after
a burglary suspect crashed into his patrol car on the LIE.
A 19-year veteran of the department, Hernandez was a highly decorated
officer who was awarded Cop of the Year twice and Cop of the Month
eight times, Dormer said. A member of the Highway Patrol Bureau,
Hernandez's past assignments included working undercover with the
Narcotics Enforcement Team.
"We lost one of our finest officers last night," Dormer said Tuesday
afternoon. "He was involved in a lot of live-saving incidents."
In 1994, Hernandez was named Cop of the Year for helping a Virginia
State Trooper arrest someone along I-95. Hernandez was driving home
from a vacation in Florida when he noticed the trooper struggling
with a man, Dormer said. The trooper had suffered a heart attack in
the midst of trying to make an arrest. Hernandez also helped
translate for troopers at the scene because the man in custody only
In 2002, Hernandez saved the life of a woman on the LIE who was
driving a Chevy Blazer that had a malfunctioning accelerator and
couldn't stop. Hernandez positioned his patrol car to prevent the
Blazer from hitting other vehicles on the expressway, letting it
crash into his back bumper. The woman he saved, Elizabeth Jordan of
Mount Sinai, called police officials early Tuesday to express her
condolences, Dormer said.
Hernandez was living a childhood dream of becoming a police officer,
his cousin said, adding that he was dedicated to their large Puerto
Rican family. Canales acted as the family spokesman Tuesday, saying
Hernandez's wife was too distraught to talk about her husband.
Hernandez is survived by his wife, Coralee; their two children,
Edwin, 25, and Tania, 21, both of Ridge; his parents, Jovita and
Nicholas Hernandez, his brother Nicholas Hernandez and sister Diana
Apicella, all of Port St. Lucie; and two grandchildren, Max Navarro,
5, and Brandon Hernandez, 2.
The family will receive visitors Wednesday and Thursday, 2 p.m. to 4
p.m. and 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Maloney Funeral Home in Holbrook. A
police service will be held there Thursday at 8 p.m. A funeral mass
is scheduled for 10:45 a.m. on Friday at the Church of the Good
Shepherd in Holbrook.
Officers who worked with Hernandez on the LIE Monday night were too
distraught to talk Tuesday but told Dormer that before Hernandez left
he said, "Goodnight and be careful."
Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy returned from the Democratic
National Convention in Boston Tuesday morning after hearing of
Hernandez's death. The two graduated from Sachem High School in 1977,
Levy said. "I would have been here for any downed officer," he said.
"But you make that extra effort for someone you knew personally."
Above all, Hernandez's cousin said, their family has lost their hero.
"He was the backbone of the family," Canales said. "He was Superman