Police say 21-year-old Jessica Ortiz was sitting in her disabled car on the westbound shoulder of Sunrise Highway in Bay Shore, just west of Exit 43, when her car was struck around 12:36 p.m. A flatbed tow truck had pulled up in front of Ortiz’s car when a Chevy Caprice, driven by Raymond Reinhardt, 51, ran into the back of the woman’s car. Ortiz’s car then struck the back of the tow truck, according to Newsday.
Ortiz was taken to Southside Hospital in Bay Shore, where she was pronounced dead, police told Newsday.
Police stated that Ortiz called the tow truck after her car broke down. The woman’s father, Charles Ortiz, told Newsday on Wednesday night that his daughter pulled over after realizing she had a flat tire on her way home from school at St. Joseph’s College in Patchogue, where she was studying to be a psychologist. The woman called her father to tell him about the flat tire, then again to let him know that a tow truck was on its way. It was the last time he heard from his daughter.
“I called and called and called and I got no response, and I wanted to make sure she was safe,” Mr. Ortiz said. “I had a hundred things going through my brain — is she OK? And then a detective comes to my job and gives me the news, and I was devastated.”
No charges have been filed, but a police spokesperson told Newsday that the investigation is ongoing. Record obtained by Newsday show Reinhardt has prior convictions for driving-related misdemeanors. Reinhardt, of West Islip, was also taken to Southside Hospital, where he was in stable but critical condition. The driver of the tow truck was not injured.
Jessica Ortiz would have graduated from St. Joseph’s College in May, just after her 22nd birthday. She also leaves behind a mother and two sisters, according to Newsday.