An aspiring medical student was killed this week when the SUV she was riding in was broadsided by a police car at anLong Island intersection made dark by superstorm Sandy.
Vishwaja Muppa, 21, was in the backseat of her friend's vehicle with other Stony Brook University students when it was hit by a police car at 1:30 am Tuesday in the town of Port Jefferson, N.Y. She was pronounced dead at the scene.
"Hurricane Sandy left a tragic casualty within the Stony Brook University campus community early on Tuesday morning," college President Samuel Stanley Jr. said in a statement.
According to Newsday, a Ford Crown Victoria driven by Suffolk County police officer Rene Garcia slammed into the 2002 Toyota Highlander. The newspaper quoted Lt. Gail Marrero, a police commander from a neighboring precinct, saying that Garcia was responding to a storm-related call that later didn't pan out when the crash occurred. She said he did not have his emergency lights at the time.
The accident is under investigation by detectives from a different precinct in order to avoid a conflict of interest.
All those involved in the crash were taken to a nearby hospital. Garcia suffered a concussion and minor injuries. He was treated and released. The SUV's driver and three surviving passengers -- who appeared not to have been wearing seat belts -- sustained trauma injuries that include a broken pelvis and vertebrae. One student was listed in critical condition, according to an email sent to the Stony Brook community by Stanley.
“On behalf of Stony Brook University, I extend personal and heartfelt condolences to Vishwaja's family, her friends, her professors and all those who knew her,” he wrote in the email. He offered counseling to students and faculty to help them cope with the tragedy.
Muppa, whose parents were originally from Hyderabad, India, and now live in New Jersey, was studying for a master's degree in biology and was to have graduated in the spring.
Friends who spoke to the school newspaper said she planned to attend medical school.
“She was such an amazing person,” Simi Jawandha, a fellow student and friend of Muppa's wrote on Facebook. “I think everyone should know that. She was literally the first friend I made in college and more than my best friend she was a sister.”
Jaspreet Benipal said she met Muppa in their freshman year and became fast friends in a physics class: "She always knew how to brighten my day.”