A Melville man was arrested Monday night after allegedly striking a cyclist with his car on the Long Island Expressway service road in Melville and then leaving the man to die on the side of the road, Suffolk County police said.
The driver, Albert Dibernardo, 28, of Randi Court, faced a judge Sept. 3 for arraignment on a charge of leaving the scene of a fatal accident without reporting the incident to police. He was released from custody Tuesday after posting $25,000 cash bail at the courthouse.
The fatal crash claimed the life of 44-year-old Ricardo Fernanez of Amityville. Detectives said Fernandez had been riding an orange bicycle and was wearing cycling clothing when he was struck by Dibernardo around 10 a.m. Monday.
Dibernardo reportedly panicked after the crash and fled from the scene, his lawyer said Tuesday. Police found Fernandez’s lifeless body after a passerby called 911. Investigators are still unsure exactly when the crash occurred.
Family members described Fernandez as an avid cyclist, who was a member of a Long Island cycling club. “He was a very sweet man. He was always willing to help people,” his brother Jamie Fernandez said after attending Dibernardo’s arraignment on Tuesday.
“This is a sad situation all the way around. It’s a horrible, horrible accident,” said Dibernardo’s attorney, Thomas Spreer. “He’s accepted full responsibility for what happened and he’s devastated about taking the life of another person.”
Dibernardo had been returning from a trip to a local bagel store when he looked away from the road and reached to the backseat of his 2010 Jeep Wrangler for a chocolaty beverage and crashed into Fernandez’s bicycle.
“Kind of to impress his family, he goes for a half-dozen bagels,” Spreer said while explaining the situation to reporters after his client’s arraignment. “He’s got the bag in the back. He reaches in the back for the Yoo-hoo, comes around and boom.”
“He realized it and kind of panicked,” Spreer added. “The next spot you get to [on the service road] is Bagatelle Road. He said the light was green, home was five minutes away...he got home and kind of broke down. [His family] contacted me a short time later.”
Dibernardo arranged, through his attorney, to voluntarily surrender himself to detectives on Monday afternoon. He was placed under arrest at the Second Precinct in Huntington after giving a statement to investigators.
“He did pretty quickly realize that he needed to do the right thing,” Spreer said. Dibernardo also reportedly allowed police to search his home, property and car.
“There was no need to [keep driving]” Jamie Fernandez said as he sobbed in a courthouse hallway with his parents. “He should have stopped.”
Fernandez’s mother Anna said her son was “a lovely man.” “He was a good person, a very good person.”
Asked if he had anything to say to Dibernardo, Jamie Fernandez said “We don’t have time to think about him. We have to be strong.”
Dibernardo is scheduled to return to court on Thursday.