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Six Survive I80 Truck Wreck

By: Garry R. Salomon

Yesterday, at around 3:00 PM, on the way back to my law office from Newark, New Jersey I found myself at a dead standstill on Route 80 East near the Garden State Parkway. I knew something terrible happened because all traffic was stopped on all I80 eastbound lanes. Hearing a helicopter above only confirmed my worst fears that a terrible motor vehicle accident must have happened. Creeping slowly along the shoulder as directed, I saw an array of lights coming from the New Jersey State Police patrol cars, and then I saw what appeared to be a 24 foot box truck sitting partially on the left divider and on top of a black SUV. Plenty of drivers in both directions were rubber necking to see the accident scene as the ambulance and EMT emergency workers arrived. After passing the crash scene, all traffic continued slowly as I’m certain all motorists reflected upon what they just witnessed.

I later learned that six people were injured in that collision. Based upon statements made by Sgt. Adam Grossman, the box truck and a 1998 Chrysler Minivan were traveling East on I95 near the Mayhill Street overpass when the truck lost control, rode up on the left guardrail hitting a support pillar of the overpass. The truck came to rest on top of the minivan.  The driver of the minivan Guartamber Fauster, 51 of Dudley, South Carolina, miraculously suffered relatively minor injuries. He and four other passengers of the truck and minivan were transported by ambulance to either Hackensack University Medical Center or St. Joseph’s Medical Center for evaluation and treatment. Rudy Martinez, the driver of the 2004 Freightliner truck was airlifted to Hackensack University Medical Center in critical condition.

The exact reason why the driver of the truck lost control has not been disclosed. Newer trucks often have a “black box” similar to the flight recorders found on airliners. This device does not disclose other potential causes such as intoxication, cellphone use, texting, excessive speed, lack of sleep or mechanical failure. Based upon the age of the truck, it is likely that the black box technology will not be available. Instead extensive accident scene investigation will help reconstruct the accident to help pin down the primary cause.

I cannot help but reflect upon the impact that collision had on me that afternoon and the rest of the day. My work as a New Jersey personal injury lawyer involves meeting people daily who survive car and truck accidents with serious injuries. On some somber occasions, I meet families who are the survivors of someone that lost their life in a fatal car accident.

From these types of experiences, I keep my memory green about the trauma of being injured and trapped in a car at an accident scene. We trial attorneys are often called upon years after the fact to paint a picture of the sounds, sights and smells of a catastrophic accident scene. We paint that picture before a jury with mere words to tell a client’s story about an often life changing experience. Law school cannot teach a lawyer emotion, and I am glad that after decades of representing the injured I am not calloused to the horrors of an accident scene.

I could only continue with my business for the day and say a prayer for the unknown driver and his loved ones hoping that he or she survived and will make a full recovery from their injuries.

I also felt a good deal of gratitude and commend the State Police, tow operators, paramedics, firefighters, and ambulance drivers at the scene who quickly figured out how to extricate the drivers and passengers without causing further harm and safely securing them for medical transport. They are the true heroes and lifesavers.

It may now be the work of trauma doctors, physical therapists, psychologists, insurance adjusters and trial lawyers, and even a judge or jury to help this driver, the passengers and their families to help recover from this life changing loss. But the one who must work the hardest to recover is the accident victim and their family. We wish those injured including the passengers, Jarmell Mickens, Christopher Ocampo, Felicita Cruzado, and Betty Benitez, good luck and a speedy recovery as well.

Garry R. Salomon, the author of this article is a New Jersey personal injury lawyer certified by the Supreme Court of New Jersey as a Civil Trial Attorney.