20 Aug 2014
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Police Up Charges for Driver in Early November Collision

Melanie S. Burkel is being held on bail after a felony reckless endangerment charge was filed on Nov. 16.

Police Up Charges for Driver in Early November Collision

A Southampton woman was hit with additional charges last week stemming from a head-on collision in East Hampton Village earlier this month.

Melanie S. Burkel, 39, is being held on $10,000 cash bail or $50,000 bond at the Suffolk County jail in Riverside, on a felony charge of reckless endangerment, which village police levied against her on Nov. 16, just as she was released from Stony Brook University Medical Center.

She was also charged with reckless driving and third-degree assault, both misdemeanors, in addition to the initial drunken driving charge, according to Village Police Chief Jerry Larsen.

"She's lucky she didn't kill somebody," Larsen said on Wednesday.

Larsen said on Nov. 2 Southampton Town police received 911 calls about an erratic driver, who was first observed in Water Mill. In Bridgehampton, other motorists reported a vehicle travelling on the wrong side of the road, almost hitting pedestrians in the cross walk, Larsen said.

East Hampton police were on the lookout for the driver as the vehicle was headed east. Then, a head-on collision was reported just east of Stephen Hands Path at 10:17 a.m.

Burkel's Chevy Cavalier struck a Lexus that was going in the other direction, a tractor trailer carrying a Bulldozer, which she had been trying to pass, and a utility pole, Larsen said.

According to police, Burkel had been passing vehicles on the wrong side of the road, across a double-yellow line, and had been doing so for quite some time. She had run an East Hampton Village Volunteer Ambulance, which was headed with a patient to Southampton Hospital, off the road, Larsen said.

Burkel was taken to Southampton Hospital, and eventually transferred to Stony Brook, where she underwent surgery for an ankle injury. Police filed misdemeanor charges against her, including driving while ability impaired by drugs, and released her on an appearance ticket.

The drive of the Lexus was also transported to Southampton Hospital with an ankle injury, Larsen said.

When Burkel was released from the hospital on Nov. 16, they picked her up on the more serious felony charge, Larsen said.

East Hampton Town Justice Catherine A. Cahill arraigned her, setting bail at $10,000 cash or $50,000 bond.

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• The village police also reported this week that Paola A. Zuleta, 26, of Montauk, was arrested on charges stemming from a stolen pocketbook from a shopping cart at Waldbaum's in June, according to detectives. On Nov. 17, Zuleta was charged with fourth-degree grand larceny, a felony, due to the fact the pocketbook had credit cards in it. She is being held at the county jail on $1,000 cash or $5,000 bond.

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