Matthew Quigley had graduated from marine mechanic school on Friday and was heading home to Long Island with his girlfriend to start their life together.
Pakee Ristine, 19, was training as a medical assistant and was expecting their child, a daughter. She was seven months pregnant.
“They packed up the truck and were heading home,” said Matthew’s mother, Heidi Watson-Wold of Wading River. “He was excited, very happy, looking forward to coming home to Long Island,” she said.
They drove north from Orlando. On Saturday morning at about 11:30 on I-95 in South Carolina, something went terribly wrong. The U-Haul trailer Matthew was towing with his 2005 Chevy Trailblazer came loose, causing Matthew to lose control of the truck. It went into the median and flipped over, according to the South Carolina Highway Patrol. Both Matthew and Pakee were ejected from the vehicle.
Watson-Wold’s only child was pronounced dead at the scene. Ristine was seriously injured. The couple’s unborn daughter was killed.
Pakee, who grew up in the Mastic area, is in a medically induced coma at a South Carolina hospital, Watson-Wold said.
“She’s got a very long road ahead of her,” she said.
Matthew and Pakee had met on Long Island and been together a little more than a year. They went south to Florida together so Matthew could enroll in a technical school for marine mechanics. Pakee had relatives in Tampa, Watson-Wold said.
“Matthew loved boats. He loved the water. He especially loved the Sound. And he loved to fish,” Watson-Wold said. “He was about to begin living his dream.”
Matthew, who graduated from Riverhead High School in 2010, was “a hard-working kid,” his mother said. “He had a tremendous work ethic. He was truly a joy all the way around.”
Watson-Wold said she and her husband Eric are devastated and confused. “He was just such a good kid. You have to ask, why? Why?”
She described herself as numb from the shock of what’s happened, and worried about the young woman her son loved.
“He was so excited he was about to become a father,” she said.
She said she was shocked to learn neither Matthew nor Pakee were wearing seat belts when the crash occurred.
“We’re still just trying to process it all,” she said.
There will be a wake at Alexander Tuthill Funeral Home, 6447 Route 25A, Wading River on Wednesday, Oct. 24, from 2 to 4 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m. A funeral service is planned for 8 p.m.
Matthew Taylor Quigley was born Sept. 25, 1992 in St. Charles Hospital in Port Jefferson. He died Oct. 20, 2012. He was 20 years old. In addition to his mother and stepfather, he is survived by his father Joseph Quigley, who lives in Florida.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks for memorial donations to Soundwaters.org, a Connecticut-based organization dedicated to educating youngsters about the L.I. Sound. It runs a three-masted ship, taking kids on educational sails on the Sound. “Matthew would have loved that,” his mother said.