SEYMOUR — To the people who knew him, Phil Hunt was always looking out for others.
“I can’t think of a better neighbor,” said Robert Valiante. “He’s the guy you would want living next door.”
Neighbors on Davis Road here were shocked, surprised and grief-stricken Friday when told Hunt died Thursday after his vehicle was struck head-on on Meloy Road in West Haven by a car fleeing from police.
Valiante said he remember plowing Hunt’s driveway and Hunt’s wife Carol “coming out with cookies and brownies.”
A few years ago a family living next door to Hunt was shoveling out from a major snowstorm. Valiante drove his plow over there to help. When he finished, Hunt came out offering to pay for the plow.
“That’s the type of guy he was,” Valiante. “Always looking out for his neighbors. He had a fire hydrant put in at his expense for our benefit. Nobody could ever say anything bad about him. I can’t believe this. I’m in shock. God Bless him.”
Arthur Albanese, a retired Hamden letter carrier now living in East Haven, worked and played softball with Hunt years ago.
“The Post Office had a softball tournament to raise money for the Muscular Dystrophy Association about 17 years,” said Albanese, who was teammate of Hunt’s. “We won the game and had a few beers afterwards. Phil thought I had a few too many beers, he took my keys and drove me and my car home. That’s a caring person.”
Police said the accident that ended Hunt’s life began after Robert Kryzkij, 44, of East Haven was involved in a hit and run in Orange. Orange police were pursuing him on Meloy Road when Kryzkij crossed the double-yellow line.
Police said Kryzkij first side-swiped a Toyota Scion, whose driver and passenger escaped injury, then crashed head-on into a Subaru driven by Hunt.
Kryzkij suffered life-threatening injuries and is being treated at Yale New Haven Hospital, police said.
“I was sitting right there (at the window). I was going to shut the TV off and go to bed. ... I heard like a tire burst and then, all of a sudden, ‘BAM!’ I looked out the window, and I saw the driver (of the Subaru) spinning out of control onto the grass,” said Bruce Jones, who lives on Meloy Road.
“I could have sworn I saw the driver’s face. He had one of those looks on his face like, ‘Really?’ And I saw the other driver, and he was sitting behind the steering wheel with his head down.”
Tassoula Nicolaou-Jones, Jones’ wife, said the accident “sounded like a tire popping and (then) a big loud ‘pow,’ a big boom, like if something exploded. And then something sounded like it was dragging, like metal. It could have been a muffler or something.”
Jones said people couldn’t help but look at the aftermath, noting that “until you got to the (vehicle) cabin, there was no car. Everything was pushed back. There were no motors. I didn’t see any motors on either car.”Read Full Article
He said the Toyota, which was on fire before someone put it out with a fire extinguisher, ended up stopping “right in front of my mailbox. Dead center in the middle of the street,” while the Subaru was against the fence.
Maria Fernandes, who also lives on Meloy Road, said she didn’t see the accident but she heard “what sounded like thunder.” She said neighbors came out from their homes to see what had happened.
Meloy Road was temporarily closed between Ridge and Eileen roads but reopened Friday morning.
Kryzkij was on state court probation at the time of the chase.
In August, Kryzkij pleaded guilty to a 2010 charge of driving under the influence in West Haven and a July, 2017, charge of resisting arrest/interfering with a peace officer in Middletown, according to court records. He was fined $500 and given a one-year sentence suspended to 18 months probation.
It’s unclear if Orange police pursued Kryzkij into West Haven, how close their officers were at the time of the fatal crash or why Kryzkij fled the initial accident in Orange.
State Police have taken over the investigation. They declined to provide details about the alleged hit-and-run. The Orange police did not respond to calls and emails to department leaders.
Among the questions asked by Hearst Connecticut Media was whether or not the pursuing officers acted in accordance with department policy.
Orange police officers should “not normally continue out of town,” according to an Orange police chase policy released in 2000 following a Freedom of Information request from the New Haven Register. “As a general rule, pursuit is not recommended or favored when the potential danger to the officer and general public outweighs the potential advantage of apprehending a fleeing vehicle.”
There was little solace Friday to any of Hunt’s friends and neighbors.
“He was very active in the union,” Albanese said of Hunt’s role with the National Association of Letter Carriers branch 19. “He usually went to the national convention.”
Calls to the union and particularly Vincent Mase Jr., the union president and an East Haven lawyer, were not returned immediately.
On Davis Road, Valiante said Hunt prided himself on his well-manicured lawn.
“Just this summer, I moved some shrubs he had in the front so he could replant them,” Valiante said. At Christmas, Valiante said, he would see Hunt bringing home “a 12-foot tree in his truck.”
The blue pickup truck was parked in Hunt’s driveway facing the street outside his large gray Colonial-style home. A steady stream of visitors was seen entering the home Friday.
When approached by Hearst Connecticut Media, Kevin Hunt, Phil’s brother, politely asked that his family’s grief be respected.
(Cedar Attanasio contributed to this story)