Holiday driving leads to three near-fatal accidents DUI arrests in two of the three North Bergen crashes

Unsafe holiday traveling led to three near-fatal accidents within the same general vicinity along Tonnelle Avenue and West Side Avenue in North Bergen, with North Bergen police issuing summonses for driving under the influence in two of the three accidents.

According to North Bergen Sgt. Carmine Pellechio, the first accident took place in the early morning hours of Dec. 30, when the driver of a Chevy Astrovan, traveling west on 69th Street, ran the red light at 69th and Tonnelle Avenue and plowed into a bakery delivery vehicle.

Pellechio said that witnesses saw the Astrovan run the red light and broadside the bakery truck, spilling bread and baked goods across the state highway around 3:15 a.m.

The driver of the Astrovan, 23-year-old Waldo Romero of Little Ferry, had to be removed from the vehicle by using the Jaws of Life tool. He was transported to Jersey City Medical Center with several injuries, including internal injuries and a broken leg. Romeo has since been released from the hospital.

Police said that a blood test indicated that Romero may have been operating the vehicle under the influence of alcohol, so he was charged with driving under the influence, disregarding a traffic signal, and operating a vehicle with a suspended license.

A passenger in Romero’s vehicle, Sean Badell of West New York, was ejected from the van as a result of the impact.

“It’s not known whether he went out the door or the window on impact, but the windshield was intact,” Pellechio said.

Badell is still in the Jersey City Medical Center in critical condition with head trauma suffered in the accident. The driver of the bakery van was treated for a mild shoulder injury at Palisades Medical Center in North Bergen and released soon after.

“By seeing the pictures of this crash, it’s amazing that anyone survived,” Pellechio said. “It was a pretty extensive crash scene.”

Pellechio said that there is a chance that the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office might add criminal charges to Romero’s summonses after conducting its own investigation.

Fractures Two days later, another violent accident took place 13 blocks away, at 56th and Tonnelle Avenue, with apparent New Year’s Eve revelers not using proper precaution in taking the wheel.

According to Pellechio, 22-year-old Antonio Lujan of Jersey City told North Bergen police that the Volkswagen he was driving was tapped in the rear by a white Honda, causing the Volkswagen to lose control while traveling north on Tonnelle Avenue at approximately 7 a.m. on New Year’s Day.

“The driver said the impact from the Honda forced him across Tonnelle Avenue into the southbound lanes and he then broadsided a pole,” Pellechio said.

While Lujan walked away from the accident without a scrape, his passenger, Wendy Jimenez-Portillo of West New York was not as fortunate. She suffered leg, arm and pelvis fractures and was transported to the Jersey City Medical Center, where she remains.

Lujan was also issued a summons for driving under the influence, with the Prosecutor’s Office examining that accident as well.

Lost control The last of the series of accidents occurred on Jan. 4, when the driver of a Nissan Pathfinder apparently lost control of his vehicle driving south on West Side Avenue and 69th Street and violently crashed sideways into a Mack truck traveling in the northbound lanes.

“Apparently, the driver hit a patch of ice on West Side Avenue and skidded across into the northbound lanes,” Pellechio said. “He skidded sideways and turned about 180 degrees and was actually hit in the rear by the truck.” The driver of the Pathfinder, 27-year-old Paul Rybkin of Wayne, suffered severe head trauma and was transported to the Jersey City Medical Center, where he remains in critical condition.

The driver of the truck, 39-year-old Julio Lora Sanchez of Haledon, suffered slight injuries. Sanchez was treated at Meadowlands Hospital in Secaucus and later released. No charges were filed in that accident.

Area of concern Pellechio said that the area where the accidents took place is monitored regularly by the Traffic Department of the North Bergen Police, but it still remains an area of concern.

“We had a pretty good handle on West Side Avenue, especially after the fatal accident in June,” Pellechio said, alluding to the crash that took the life of Cliffside Park High School graduate Rebeka Verea on her graduation night. “We’ve been concentrating on that area with radar and issuing summonses. Tonnelle Avenue has a horrible reputation of accidents, probably since its inception, with vehicles tending to reach high speeds and not being able to stop. When you throw alcohol into the mix, it’s a whole different story. It’s unfortunate, but it appears that two of the accidents were clearly holiday party and New Year’s Eve-related.”

Added Pellechio, “We try to promote awareness about drinking and driving all the time, but people are going to continue to do it anyway. Here are the results of that.”


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