The two students struck by a reversing garbage truck at Farmingdale State College Tuesday were chatting and may have been distracted before the accident that killed one of them, Suffolk police said Wednesday.
Aresh Saqib, 21, told detectives that he was giving directions to Kaeli Sara Kramer, 19, as they left their physics class in Lupton Hall and walked down a path also used by service trucks, police said.
Kramer, who just finished her freshman year at Centenary College in Hackettstown, N.J., was looking for the campus bookstore, police said.
"He's explaining where the bookstore is. They believe they're in a walkway," said Det. Lt. Gerard Pelkofsky of the First Squad.
Saqib told police at Nassau University Medical Center, where he was in serious condition Wednesday, that neither he nor Kramer "saw or heard anything" before the garbage truck backed over them, Pelkofsky said.
Both students were crushed by the rear wheels of the front-loading truck. Kramer was pronounced dead at the scene a short time after the 11:40 a.m. accident.
Saqib, a construction management student from Farmingdale, was taken to NUMC in critical condition, according to NUMC spokeswoman Shelley Lotenberg. He was expected to be moved from the intensive care unit to a medical unit Wednesday afternoon. Saqib declined to comment.
The truck driver, Guillermo Vargas, 39, of Levittown, told detectives that he was backing up when he heard screams and saw Saqib on his hand and knees by the truck.
Students in Lupton Hall also rushed to the scene.
"We heard a scream in class and then we saw the guy who was driving the truck standing over the woman and crying," said Avram Block, 24, a Yeshiva University senior from Roslyn who was in an environmental science physics class.
Vargas was treated and released for emotional distress at NUMC, the hospital said. A number listed for Vargas was disconnected Wednesday.
A preliminary test showed that the truck's automatic backup alarm was working, although police are investigating if it operated when the crash occurred.
Vargas has worked for the garbage company, Jamaica Ash of Westbury, for many years, and was on his usual weekday route, police said. He had just emptied a nearby trash bin and was preparing to approach another when he hit the pair.
Vargas has cooperated with detectives. The investigation is ongoing and no charges have been filed.
A man who answered the door at the Kramer home in West Hills declined to comment Wednesday.
Kramer, who neighbors said was valedictorian at the Knox School in St. James, was a double major in equine studies and biology.
In her first year at Centenary, Kramer joined the dressage team, schooling horses and mentored freshmen. She also helped provide therapeutic rides for disabled children and adults.
"She raised her hand to volunteer for therapeutic riding and has been faithful ever since," said equine studies associate professor Octavia Brown in a statement released by the college. "She turned her hand to any task that was required."
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