An elderly Long Island woman was killed Wednesday afternoon when she suddenly crossed into oncoming traffic and crashed into a tree in Rocky Point, according to Suffolk County police.
The fatal crash occurred at 2:45 p.m. along County Road 21 – commonly referred to as Rocky Point-Yaphank Road – just south of Route 25A and not far from Rocky Point High School. Police say 87-year-old Francine Schenkel, of Ridge, was driving north in her 1997 Toyota when she allegedly crossed into the southbound lanes of traffic. Her car then allegedly continued off the roadway, traveled through a wooded area and then collided with a tree, according to a police news release.
Authorities said the car went up in flames after the collision. Firefighters and emergency crews from the Rocky Point Fire Department responded and extinguished the blaze. Schenkel, authorities said, was pronounced dead at the scene by a physician’s assistant from the Suffolk County medical examiner’s office. Attempts to reach her family members Thursday at a telephone number listed in public records were unsuccessful.
Det. Sgt. William Bundrick, of the Suffolk County Police Seventh Precinct, said detectives were still trying to piece together exactly what happened. He said witnesses were unsure what caused the woman to crash into the tree. “She apparently left the roadway on her own,” he said. “We don’t know if it was a medical emergency.”
Bundrick said detectives were continuing to investigate the collision, though it was unclear if any criminality was suspected. Police have impounded Schenkel’s car for a safety check as the investigation continues. The area surrounding the crash site remained closed for a majority of Wednesday afternoon and reopened late Wednesday evening. Anyone with information about the crash is asked to call Seventh Squad detectives at 631-852-8752 or call Suffolk County Crime Stoppers at 1-800-220-TIPS.