LONG BEACH, CALIFORNIA – A sunbather catching rays on a Long Island beach was mowed down yesterday by a cop racing to an emergency, in a horrific accident that left tire marks along the victim’s back, officials said.
Only the soft sand and good fortune kept the unsuspecting sunbather from being crushed to death, according to witnesses.
Beachgoers watched in horror as Officer Paul DeMarco, a 10-year veteran, stepped on the gas in his Long Beach Police Department SUV — with Marshall Starkman, 43, under his wheels.
According to officials, DeMarco was responding to a call for a water rescue shortly after noon and made a sharp right turn, rolling over Starkman, who was lying face down in a lounge chair.
Witnesses said DeMarco did not know he struck the man until bystanders screamed for him to stop.
“When he first hit him, he stopped,” said Scott Cali, 47. “Then he accelerated and went over him while people were yelling. I guess he didn’t see him and went right over him. It was just a horrible accident.”
The victim’s chair was low on the sand and might have been obstructed from the officer’s view.
“He didn’t see [the victim],” Long Beach City Manager Charles Theofan said of DeMarco.
Starkman was rushed by helicopter to Nassau University Medical Center in East Meadow and was in the intensive-care unit last night, but was expected to survive, officials said.
“He’s in a tremendous amount of pain. I’ve never seen him in such pain,” said his shaken wife, Allison, adding that he suffered a fractured spine and broken rib.
“I just can’t believe what happened. “He was sitting on the beach minding his own business,” she said.
“It’s very unfortunate, but thank God he’s alive.”
Starkman’s mother, Joan, said she nearly passed out when she saw the tire marks on her son’s back.
DeMarco was responding to a call of a surfer in distress. The surfer eventually got out of the water without being hurt.
Starkman, a manager at a cellphone store in the Green Acres Malls in Valley Stream, LI, had been lounging near a cooler listening to music when the SUV crushed him, witnesses said.
The weight of the vehicle smashed him so far down into the sand that the lounge chair nearly disappeared.
Despite being in obvious pain, the victim managed to grab his cellphone.
“He wanted someone to contact his mom,” Cali said. “He said, ‘Can somebody please call my mom.’ “
Nassau County police responded to the accident and launched an investigation to avoid any appearance of a conflict of interest, Theofan said.
But DeMarco is not expected to face any charges.