A 29-year-old New Jersey man is facing charges including aggravated manslaughter, death by auto and DUI for a crash that killed three people last month. The man, who is from Vernon, crashed a Honda Pilot into a Wayne gas station on Route 23 on Feb. 19.
Authorities say that the driver had been using heroin and was under the influence of other drugs when his vehicle went off the road. A father and his teenage son were killed when the man’s car sheared off the roof of their Chevy Camaro. A 22-year-old gas station attendant was also killed.
The driver had to be given Narcan (naloxone) to revive him at the crash scene. According to prosecutors, a toxicology report showed cocaine, benzodiazepines and opiates in his system. They say that police found heroin and a used hypodermic needle in his car after the crash.
When he appeared at the Passaic County Courthouse last month, his attorney said that the man has been addicted to drugs for “at least a decade.” He said it was possible that his client had suffered a “medical episode,” which led to the crash.
This wasn’t the first time the man was involved in a drug-related collision. In Nov. 2016, he hit a guardrail on Route 80 in Fairfield. He was unconscious and had no pulse when police arrived, so first responders used naloxone to revive him.
Multiple bags of heroin, as well as syringes, were found in his vehicle after that crash. At the time, he reportedly told police, “I was driving in the left lane and injected numerous bags of heroin. All of a sudden, I felt something was wrong and I don’t know what was happening next.” Although he pleaded guilty to DUI, the drug charges were dropped, and he lost his driver’s license for just seven months.
He will remain in jail while he awaits trial. His attorney says, “His level of remorse is profound.”
Sadly, there are too many drivers on New Jersey roads who are under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol. Regardless of what criminal penalties they face when they cause crashes that injure and kill others, victims and surviving family members have a right to seek compensation in civil court. While no amount of money can bring back a loved one who has been killed, it can help families move forward and provide some additional sense of justice.