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Floral Pk. Guardsmen dies in crash on Grand Central

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Alfred Otero, 53, of 74th Avenue, fell...

By Courtney Dentch and Michael Morton

A New York Guardsman headed to his Floral Park home after a military training session was killed Sunday morning when his 1999 Ford Explorer flipped over on the Grand Central Parkway at 159th Street, police said.

Alfred Otero, 53, of 74th Avenue, fell asleep behind the wheel of his SUV and crashed into the median on the eastbound side of the highway about 10:30 a.m. Sunday, police said.

The red Explorer flipped over and landed on its side, police said.

Otero’s daughter Ericka said her father was only minutes from arriving home after training upstate with the New York Guard and stopping by the Guard’s Whitestone office, where he helped recruit new members.

“He was probably so tired he fell asleep at the wheel,” said Ericka Otero, who survived an accident herself in February after she fell asleep driving.

Kerry West, who was walking on the Parsons Boulevard overpass and saw the crash, said “the red car tried to merge and fipped over.”

No other injuries were reported in the accident, police said.

Traffic was snarled up for hours as officers closed the highway to clear the wreck and investigate its cause, police said. Officers diverted cars off the eastbound Grand Central Parkway at the 168th Street exit, and rubberneckers headed west slowed traffic in that direction, police said.

Jackie Gillett, who lives off the service road for the highway in Briarwood, said there are often accidents on the thoroughfare.

“I heard a loud screech and then heard the metal rubbing against the ground,” she said. “There are always accidents here and at the corners are the worst.”

Ericka Otero last saw her father on Saturday and remembered thinking, “Wow, my father looks very beautiful for his age.”

He worked at a life insurance company in Brooklyn, but his daughter said his passion was volunteering for the Guard, where he served as a military police officer and tried to sign up other family members. Before joining the Guard three years ago, Otero spent nine years of combined service in the Navy, Army and Air Force.

“He loves his military,” Ericka Otero said. She said her father was also a joker and recalled how he would use marching orders and salutes when off-duty to make people laugh.

Ericka Otero said her father was a man who still did fancy jumps off swimming pool diving boards, who played conga drums and played them well, and who held cookouts for neighbors, earning the moniker “barbecue man.” He was also a great dancer, but one who got carried away, as attested to by the minor injuries inflicted upon his wife Eva and daughter Ericka.

Besides his wife, whom he was married to for 28 years, and his daughter Ericka, Otero is survived by his mother, four brothers, and four sons and daughters.

As of Tuesday, funeral and burial arrangements had not been worked out, but Otero will receive full military honors.

On Monday one of Otero’s National Guard uniforms hung from a closet door. Said David Otero, 51, of his brother: “He said, ‘If anything happens to me, I want to be buried with my uniform on.’”

Reach reporter Courtney Dentch by e-mail at news@timesledger.com, or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 138.

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