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Two Killed in Sag Harbor Accident When Car Bursts into Flames

Posted on 13 April 2011

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Two local men were killed on Saturday, April 9, when their car left the road, hit a tree and burst into flames.

At about 3:34 p.m. on Saturday afternoon, the Southampton Town Police responded to the accident on Brick Kiln Road near Pheasant Lane in Noyac.

Investigating officers determined the accident involved a 2006 Ford Mustang owned by Thomas Wheeler, 43, of Sag Harbor, who was a passenger in the car, and driven by Manuel Cunha, 58, of East Hampton. Police reports indicate the car was traveling west along Brick Kiln Road when it crossed over into the eastbound lane, then crossed back into the westbound lane before leaving the roadway and colliding with a tree in the front yard of 871 Brickiln Road. The car then burst into flames.

The Sag Harbor Fire Department and Sag Harbor Volunteer Ambulance Corps responded to the scene. The fire department extinguished the flames and closed the road for the duration of the investigation, a span of about six hours.

Preliminary determination indicates excessive speed was a contributing factor to the accident. Southampton Town Police are awaiting additional reports from the medical examiner’s office to ascertain if there are any other possible contributing factors.

Both occupants were pronounced dead at the scene and transported to the Suffolk County Medical Examiners Office. Police said that positive identification was made difficult due to the nature of the accident.

Visiting for Manuel Cunha will be at Yardley and Pino Funeral Home in Sag Harbor on Wednesday, April 13, from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m.

Visiting for Thomas Wheeler will be at Yardley and Pino Funeral Home in Sag Harbor on Thursday, April 14, from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m.

The Southampton Town Detective Division is continuing the investigation and is requesting anyone that may have information about this or any other crime to please contact the Detective Division at 631-728-5000 or the Police Information Hotline at 631-728-3454.

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130 Responses to “Two Killed in Sag Harbor Accident When Car Bursts into Flames”

  1. Steve McMahon says:

    Bruce B says:”My own opinion is that the vehicle no doubt was being operated at excessive speed as police said”…..”Brick Kiln Road would not even permit an operator in attaining (100 MPH) that rate of speed. Only a madman would attempt a speed like that”
    Thank you Bruce. I guess that clears everything up. There is an old saying that goes something like this= “opinions are like a$$-HO$$s, everyone has one”. Well, almost everyone.It seems yours is disguised in the area where opinions come from not where
    they should be before exiting the bowels into the toilet.

  2. Cary Whitman says:

    IMHO- Bruce B was trying to befriend/console Lon and not add fuel to the fire.The submissions offered on this comments page are a perfect example of what can happen in a “mob mentality” type of environment.If any of you had taken the time to CAREFULLY read all the comments and put them in proper order and perspective as submitted then you would have seen that only 1 person early on suggested that the car was traveling at 100MPH and the possibility that the driver of that vehicle had been drinking.Opinionated comments then slowly entered the discussion and a lot of topics were brought in that were not necessarily of any importance to informing us further on details this newspaper had not yet disclosed.
    If you are of the opinion that these two acted irresponsibly and are a danger to the public then you can rest assured that they won’t be a threat to you or your loved ones in the future.
    If you are of the opinion that there is an injustice being waged on the memories of these two men then you just have to come to grips with the somewhat professional results of local authorities at the scene of the crash indicating excessive speed was a factor in the crash.No more -no less.

  3. G Harmon says:

    Still yet more opinion.So here is mine.When will we, if ever, get the toxicology reports to put that issue to rest and give Lon closure.And then what will we do with them.Here are some opinions I have in how everyone will deal with or interpret the results when and if they emerge.:
    1.Inconclusive:This will be the toughest one to deal with as the controversy will never be able to have a clear logical conclusion for either side of the argument.
    2.Conclusive: Positive for alcohol/drugs.This too will be the toughest one to deal with as the controversy will never be able to have a clear logical conclusion for either side of the argument.

  4. Lon Parisi says:

    Ok this blog should not turn to me as the focus, although I do appreciate the concern some contributors have for my state of mind. Very human of you. However, I’m the least important person in this whole situation. I think I may have been caught up in representing the voice of people involved that didn’t have the ability or constitution to represent themselves.

    When I read BruceB’s comments I was not upset at all. And although we may disagree on certain things and/or conclusions, the tone of his post was not antagonistic, accusatory, or even negative. Unlike some of the other contributors who insist He was a positive contributor even if you don’t agree with him.

    BruceB did a good job showing how a cogent discussion, even in disagreement, can occur and people can still act like human beings.

  5. Larry in Medford says:

    I had a friend who was the unlucky owner of a car that was stolen years ago.The thieves
    who made off with it wound up in a chase with the police and hit a tree sideways wrapping it around the tree.When we went to the salvage yard to look at it I recall the
    guy who worked there saying that you could figure out how fast they were going by adding 1 MPH for every inch the car was crushed or something like that and that after a certain speed the car is just cut in half on impact because its width is less than the 1mph to inch calculation.So if that’s anywhere near being a valid way to estimate speed
    then I’d have to say that a mustang is about 6 feet wide-72 inches.That puts the speed
    at 72 mph MAX before it is going to be in two pieces when being stopped by a tree.
    Hope this helps those people in the meantime waiting for more info on the accident.

  6. Lou Manning says:

    Larry-Ok-thanks for the info. So if that kind of calculation is correct or at least in the ballpark and there were two sets of skid marks on both sides of the road for several yards indicating the brakes were put on to slow down, then that might mean the car could have had a top speed of 100mph then slowed down by braking as indicated by the skid marks to some speed less than 72mph before impact.It seems plausible to me.You’d have to factor in what the mustang specs are in 60mph to zero stopping distance which is about 120 feet I think. There was a post earlier by Bruce B who said he went to the crash site and saw the skid marks. Maybe he could chime in with some approximate measurements of those two sets of skidmarks.

  7. Bruce B says:

    Lou,
    The skid marks began as the vehicle was crossing back over the center line returning to it’s lane of travel. I would estimate skid marks of just 60 feet, give or take 5 feet. This includes a ten foot area of turf off the tarmac before tree. I saw disturbances in roadway 25 – 30 feet past the tree, but this has been attributable to the engine separating from the vehicle upon impact.

    One thing that bothered me on this. I saw cuts in the pavement in line with the skid marks. This could indicate a tire rim in contact with the pavement. If this was the case, more than likely it was the left rear tire that blew. This event would have occurred no more than 300 feet before impact and would have caused the vehicle to swerve into the on-coming lane much more so than a front tire blowout. The driver may have been in the process of recovering from this and ran out of roadway before the crash. The road conditions that day were clear and dry with a temperature about 50 degrees. Roadway was straight with an estimated 6 degree grade slope.

  8. Heather Beaumont says:

    Holy crap the stuff that is coming from some of you people, were any of you in the car with Tom & Manny? Don’t judge, I’ve known Tom since Lukas was a little bit,probably around a year old that is when I started watching his kids. He adores his kids, and Tom had to be one of the most charasmatic people I know. He was always smiling and laughing. Regardless of the circumstances there are 3 boys who lost a father and Linda lost her husband. Do any of you care that his kids have seen these comments?? Freedom of speech ok, but take into consideration that some of the things posted by people who have known clue as to what really happened are now hurting the innocents. Get a grip people and let his wife and sons grieve w/o having to know what you think

  9. Jane mcduff says:

    I agree with you heather.I wish there were a way that the people interested in this crash but not related to the victims could have a forum of their own.I don’t think they mean any harm but do have an interest in it as a news story.It probably never occurred to them that this comments page was considered by the friends and family of the crash victims to be a place for condolences only.That’s a problem when not much information is published in the paper and when its an online public forum for all to engage in.This is one of the drawbacks for a small town that has a far wider exposure when the local paper is available to read around the world at the click of a button.Because of this the tragedy for the family becomes a news story to a lot of people who don’t even know where sag harbor is.Maybe someone at the town police can provide a better analysis for next weeks paper and these people who are not related can continue their dialog there on the comments page for that story and move from this one.If I can extend my condolences I would just like to say my prayers are with all of you. God Bless.

  10. John L. says:

    Erin, how do you your kids weren’t messing around (or someone else’s) in the street at the time of the accident, and Manny swerved to avoid them and killed himself and Tommy. Would you get off your high horse then? Probably not. You disgust me, as well as the other haters on this blog. Tommy was a better person than any of you (christine, jake, erin for example).

  11. giveitabreakalready says:

    John L- I suggest if you are a member in good standing with our local police or volunteer fire squad that you politely ask them what they saw at the scene.I hope you won’t think of them as haters when they tell you the truth about the rate of speed manny was driving that mustang at when he lost control.It’s a hard painful truth to swallow and no amount of comments from any of the people contributing to this commentary will change that simple yet painful fact.I can’t imagine anyone in either of these families are actually reading these comments.And if they are then it is their choice to do so.Not yours.

  12. giveitabreakalready says:

    John L-In addition- Who in God’s Green Acre would accelerate to an excessive speed to miss hitting a group of children or a deer in the road? Most alert drivers would slow down not speed up unless they were trained formula one drivers in a million dollar car that could possibly respond to such a maneuver.

  13. Susan King Miller says:

    You people attacking the dead are poor excuses for human beings!!!! Where is your compassion for the ones who have left this world and the ones that they have left behind? I have no doubt that family members are reading these comments, just as us friends are. Not one person standing up for Manny and/or Tommy have said that is ok to speed down the road, drink and drive, text and drive, etc., etc., etc. These two people that MANY knew and loved have paid the ultimate price. Why does it matter now how fast they were going? I am pretty sure I speak for us all when I say thank the good lord noone else was involved and what really matters is that noone else was. Why can’t you all just leave it alone and stop attacking them? Does it give you some kind of twisted pleasure to know that you are hurting everyone left behind? What exactly does it accomplish? They hurt noone but themselves and those grieving so can you please be kind enough to either say a prayer or just go away? Please stop adding more pain with your hateful, hurtful comments. Thank you!!

  14. lowell furston says:

    To the editor of sag harbor express.I hope you are monitoring your comments pages and you get this message.I beckon you=== Is there any way you can delete all comments concerning these 2 news stories of the brick kiln car crash? And then solicit one of the investigators at the scene for definitive truthful account of what was determined at that time? And then publish that without a comments link to the story?I think that would be the prudent thing to do considering what is happening here on this site.At least set up a special comments page that requires participants to register with the paper in order to leave comment for those wishing to send a message to the grieving families.===I’m hoping that I’m not the only one to have thought of this and it might not hurt to pick up your phone and speak to the editor directly about deleting all the comments.I’m sure he will understand and will be able to devise a plan to do it without recourse.

  15. another2cents says:

    The accident investigators determined that excessive speed was a factor in the crash.
    If this is not correct then please inform the editor of all the papers who printed that information to make a correction. For anyone wondering what does excessive speed mean-it means speeds 30mph or greater above posted speed limit.I extend my deepest sympathy to all that survive the deceased.

  16. Larry King says:

    MS Miller-why does it matter NOW how fast they were going????? Hmmm……..it matters now more than ever -for the living-so that we can ALL be reminded never to do that, for any reason in the future.That’s why it matters-That’s why.

  17. John Ayres says:

    Especially for those who have lost so much already….

  18. Erick Saldivar says:

    Can everyone shut the hell up? Okay, yeah, maybe they were speeding, but I’m sure most of you drive and you can’t tell me that you NEVER speed. Because that would be a lie. You don’t know how these families are feeling. I lost my brother in a car accident two years ago. It was no ones fault. I know how these people are feeling and to the douche bags talking shit, get a freaking life. No one needs or cares to hear your stupid little theories. They died, it’s a tragedy. But life goes and just let them rest in peace.

  19. Daniel says:

    Okay, yeah,maybe they were speeding? You should read the reported story first before you read the comments posted.There are no ok’s yeahs or maybes referring to the speed of the car.The speed was excessive which is a polite way of saying it was at least 30mph over the posted limit.OK? So here goes-I drive and I never speed and that makes me a liar.I don’t know how these family’s are feeling because? I’m a liar? Because I say I never speed? I can be sure of one thing-I’m never going to die in a car that I am driving as a result of me speeding.Did it ever occur to you that some of the comments from what now has become the group of “haters” or those entering logical comments based on reported investigative findings are possibly from people who have suffered from loved ones lost in automobile accidents.Did you ever consider that they may still be grieving their loss from the hands of someone driving with excessive speed killing their wife,child mother father, sister,brother?Or one of their loved ones using excessive speed and killing themselves?Or someone else? Do you think they speed when they drive? I guess for some of us we get lucky and learn from either our own or others fatal mistakes.Consider for a moment if those two who died could have looked into the future the week prior to their accident.Do you think either of them would have gotten into that car and repeated that scenario again? With everything that was at stake? i don’t know either of the deceased but i’d still put my money on the notion that neither of them would ever drive or allow someone else to drive with excessive speed from that day onward if they had a second chance.That’s the problem-You only get one chance and to you that makes those who don’t ever speed living liars.

  20. Erick Saldivar says:

    Obviously they’re still grieving asshole. They were speeding. Everyone does it. I don’t drive. I use public transportation so don’t tell me I do. I’m just saying to leave the deceased alone. How about everyone drives following the law? Then life would be easier. Accidents are going to happen regardless. You can do something to try and prevent them but they will still happen. Leave the family to grieve and the deceased alone.

  21. wendy mattice says:

    Wow people get a life and get off the computer…Two lives were lossed regardless of what happened ..Two families have had there HEARTS Broken..Time to getover this story and move on to someone elses grief….R.I.P Manny and Tommy

  22. Sagharborkid says:

    I can’t even believe some of the things that have been posted on here. Yeah freedom of speech say what you want but really it comes down to having a sense of respect. Clearly anyone who commented something negative has something wrong with them. how dare any of you say they were drunk and going over 100mph, were you there? Um no I don’t think so. Tommy has been in my life since I was younger and no I may not be an adult but I think from what I’m saying I could be considered one. Haters: read what you said, you’re the child; you have no respect; and you must be so lonely and disliked that you have to come onto this website and post something negative and hurtful, so really shame on you jerks. Although I did not know Manny; may he and Tommy rest in peace. You two really will be missed.
    RIP

  23. A Full Name says:

    Sagharborkid- Look at (comments from other related story) what Paul Willingham says:
    April 16, 2011 at 7:00 pm
    JUST FOR THE RECORD, NOBODY KNOWS ANY DETAILS ABOUT THE CRASH, THE SPEED, THE CIRCUMSTANCES, OR ANYTHING ELSE FOR THAT MATTER. NOT ONE PERSON SHOULD BE LEAVING A COMMENT WITHOUT A FULL NAME, THAT IS JUST BEING A COWARD.

  24. Pat K says:

    I see in many of the blogs everyone is mentioning Tommy, keep in mind people that Tommy did not have his foot on the gas pedal from the passenger seat, since when is it the fault of the passenger when there is an accident? Unfortunately Manny Cunha was the one with his foot on the gas pedal. Tommy will be forever missed!

  25. Martin Donaldson says:

    Thanks Pat for the reminder-I think many of the people leaving comments here have not read all of the posted comments from the onset nor either of the published news items relating to the crash.There seems to be a selective prejudiced retort coming from what appears to be the locals/friends and the haters/concerned news readers for lack of better description.It’s remarkable how people can come together on the one hand and yet at the same time be so divisive on the other.And this is not exclusive to either one of these groups.The enormity of this tragedy for the loved ones of these two residents is immeasurable.It is pointless to argue anything on this sad event.It has happened-it has been determined that excessive speed was a factor and that Mr.Wheeler was the passenger in his own car with Manny Cunha as driver.I still can not understand why so many are defending the driver as to whatever exact speed he was travelling at before the crash.It has already been determined to be excessive.It seems that if the final official report estimates the speed to anything under 100MPH then the first group will be vindicated and the second group will be proven haters.The other possible tragedy here related to this accident will be if there is a sense of vindication for some if the car was only travelling at 50 60 70 80 or 90 mph.All excessive for that posted speed limit but not the magic 100 mph.Which has become the main focus for much of these commentators on both sides.It truly is daunting how deep and widespread this tragedy has affected and motivated people to express their thoughts.Having read all of the sincere comments about the energy and spirit of Mr Wheeler came as no surprise to me.As one commentator expressed-
    “I have never seen so many comments on this page.” Maybe his legacy is what his tragic demise has done to awaken the sleeping and make them the better for it.

  26. Frank Logic says:

    For all those in defense of, in denial with, or simply confused regarding the term “excessive” as the determined speed of the vehicle preceeding time of crash I offer this .
    It is very very cold outside-one would say the temperature is excessive.Below 0 degrees fahrenheit..
    It is very very hot outside -one would say the temperature is excessive. Above 100 degrees fahrenheit.
    The car is going very very fast- one would say its speed is excessive.Above xxxMPH

  27. E.M. Maxx says:

    And the reason for all the posts concerning Tommy……. He wasn’t perfect. WHO IS ???!!!???!!! This I know for sure; he was funny,charismatic,full of life, it is what it is, and just like his Father Bob would help anyone in need….!!!!!!!! So it really SUCKS that he’s gone…….

  28. Kristin wheeler says:

    All of you who are saying that whoever would be driving that fast is a madman, STOP! I know the whole story of how it went down
    My mom Linda Wheeler was painting Masons(tommys son) drawers for his room outside, Tommy and Many had been drinking previously that day… My mom asked tommy and many to get more paint. They left to get it( they were a bit drunk) and many wasnt looking and they swerved and once they realized they were gonna crash they didnt have enough time to turn away. My dad lives a few seconds down the road. He was the FIRST TO THE SCENE!!!!
    So all of u who r saying they were mad men are a&$holes
    Do you know how long it took my mom to cop with everything she was frickin devasted like her whole heart just died, same as mine… And even to this day i cry everyday! So stop


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