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10 Years Ago: Billy Joel Smashes Third Car in Two Years

Andrew H. Walker, Getty Images

Billy Joel was involved in his third car accident over a two-year period on April 24, 2004, a string of mishaps that had model ex-wife Christie Brinkley openly wondering whether their daughter should be riding with him. E News! quipped that he was a “great piano player, lousy motorist.”

No one was injured in this latest crash, as Joel’s vintage 1967 Citroen slid off a wet road in Bayville, N.Y. and smashed into the home of Maria Dono, who luckily was not home. The 94-year-old later told reporters that she had no idea who Joel was, though — once she was informed — Dono subsequently demanded the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer pay for the damage: “He’d better come fix it,” she said. “I’m sure he has money.”

Joel, then 54, suffered only a minor injury, a small cut to his left ring finger. He’d previously smashed a car into a tree on Long Island in 2003, and then another crash in East Hampton in 2002. He later checked into a substance abuse and psychiatric center in Connecticut, saying that rehab came after “a prolonged period of overindulgence.” At the same time, Joel has vigorously denied the role of alcohol in these accidents. Last year, Joel said a new relationship actually sparked the desire to get sober: “I went to rehab in ’05 because, when I was with [now ex-wife] Katie [Lee], she said, ‘You’re drinking way too much.’ I never had a DUI in my life. That’s another fallacy. Look at the police records.”

Nassau County Police confirmed that there was no evidence of alcohol of drug use in the 2004 incident. “He seemed embarrassed that he lost control of the car,” according to witness Thomas Phillips Jr. “He said, ‘I can’t believe I got in another accident.’ He was just going out to get a pizza.”

Joel had divorced Brinkley 10 years before, in 1994. Their daughter Alexa Ray was a teenager at the time of this accident. “I’m worried about Billy,” Brinkley said in 2003, “but like any mother would be, I am alarmed and concerned about my child’s safety by this frightening pattern of accidents.”

Joel subsequently blamed the accidents on depression sparked by the 2001 terror attacks on his home city. “I was kind of in a mental fog, and it had nothing to do with the booze,” he said. “My mind wasn’t right. I wasn’t focused. I went into a deep, deep depression after 9/11.”

Newsday later published an interactive map of Long Island, featuring several places mentioned in Joel’s songs — but also the Bayville crash site.

Next: Top 10 Billy Joel Songs

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