By Michael O’Keeffe Newsday
SUFFOLK, N.Y. — Suffolk police officials hailed a cop as a hero Wednesday for jumping into a 30-ton crane truck the night before on the Long Island Expressway and stopping the driver after he hit four vehicles — but the officer said he was just doing his job.
Suffolk police Chief of Department Stuart Cameron said the actions taken by highway patrol officer Joseph Goss and three other cops may have saved lives and prevented what could have been a horrifying tragedy.
“I don’t really think you need to use too much imagination to see the potential catastrophe that could have occurred had this crane not been stopped,” Cameron said during a news conference Wednesday at Suffolk police headquarters in Yaphank, “a 30-ton crane operated by someone who was impaired by alcohol on the Expressway during rush hour.”
Goss, 35, a 12-year Suffolk police veteran, seemed humbled by the accolades.
“I was just doing my job, to be honest,” said Goss, 35, a 12-year Suffolk police veteran, at the news conference. “It seemed like the right thing to do at the time.”
The driver of the crane truck, Brian Sinclair, 47, of Riverhead, surrendered shortly after Goss jumped in and was taken into custody, police said.
Suffolk police received a flurry of 911 calls at 6:14 p.m. Tuesday — the height of the evening rush hour — about a massive crane truck driving erratically on the eastbound LIE near Exit 57, Cameron said. The crane truck hit a Nissan Altima, Jeep Cherokee, Honda Civic and a Toyota RAV4, police said, leaving crushed and twisted pieces of automobiles strewn along the expressway near the Islandia exit.
Goss said he was waiting in a police Chevrolet Tahoe near Exit 60 when he saw the 2000 Liebherr crane truck approaching, weaving across three lanes at about 48 mph.
Cameron said Goss saved other motorists from harm by following the crane truck, activating his lights and siren and driving back and forth across the eastbound lanes to prevent other vehicles from getting close. Sinclair refused to stop, Cameron said.
This is Suffolk County Police Officer Joseph Goss…he is being called a hero for helping to stop a drunk crane operator by jumping into the passengers side…he stopped another drunk driver two years in the same manner. Tune in to @wcbs880 for the story. pic.twitter.com/3qoPQn24Rz
— sophia_b_hall (@sophiabhall1) July 11, 2018
Two Suffolk K-9 unit officers, Mark Sacco and Robert Fanwick, pursued Sinclair from the HOV lane while another highway patrol cop, Luis Bustamante, sped ahead of the crane truck and forced it to the right shoulder of the expressway.
The crane truck had just rolled to a stop at Exit 63 when Goss jumped out of his police vehicle and climbed into the passenger side of the crane truck’s cab.
“I was able to use my service weapon to convince the driver to put the vehicle into park, which he did,” Goss said.
After leaving a miles-long trail of destruction, Sinclair’s only comment after Goss climbed into the cab was, “What’s up?”
Sinclair pleaded not guilty Wednesday in First District Court in Central Islip to driving while intoxicated and leaving the scene of an accident, a spokeswoman for District Attorney Timothy Sini said. Bail was set at $5,000 cash or $15,000 bond. Neither was posted, according to court records. He is scheduled to return to court on July 20.
Sinclair had bloodshot, glassy eyes, was unsteady on his feet, slurred his words and had alcohol on his breath when he was pulled over, court records say. He refused to submit to a breath test.
Colin Patrick Astarita, Sinclair’s Southampton attorney, said his client denies being drunk and said he had fallen asleep at the wheel.
Hero Suffolk County Highway Patrol Officer Joseph Goss tell us how he stopped a speeding crane yesterday on the LIE. Goss manages to enter the crane and all the driver (allegedly intoxicated and hit several cars) says is: “What’s up?” @SCPDHq @ABC7NY #suffolkcounty pic.twitter.com/Xlyrn4NVSN
— Stacey Sager (@staceysager7) July 11, 2018
“He worked all day,” Astarita said. “It certainly has happened where people have been in and out of sleep while driving and have gotten into similar types of accidents. . . . With a vehicle of that size, you can drive over a fence and not even know it.”
Because Sinclair refused a blood or Breathalyzer test, there’s no proof he was driving drunk, Astarita said.
“There’s nothing to support [driving while intoxicated] other . . . than any observations made by the police officer,” the defense attorney said. “There’s no alcohol in the vehicle and no admission of alcohol. There’s no breath test and no blood test.”
Three of the drivers in vehicles hit by the crane truck were taken to hospitals for treatment of minor injuries. The driver of the Jeep refused medical attention, police said. There were no passengers in the vehicles.
Goss injured his ankle during the chase and was treated at Stony Brook University Hospital.
This isn’t the first time Goss had been hailed as a hero. In December 2016, when an impaired driver with a toddler in the backseat of a Ford Taurus refused to pull over on the LIE, the officer sped ahead, parked, and ran alongside the sedan as it moved at about 5 mph, according to a Newsday story then.
He said he dove into the open window and, with his feet dangling out, forced the gear shift into park.
Cameron had praise for all four cops involved in Tuesday’s highway drama.
“Not only was there tremendous coordination and skill utilized by the highway patrol bureau, there was tremendous bravery on the part of Officer Bustamante, whose vehicle could have been struck by this crane, and Officer Goss, who in my mind risked his life to protect members of the public,” Cameron said.