NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Police are investigating a crash in New Jersey that left one girl in critical condition and two other children hurt after authorities say they were struck by a sport utility vehicle driven by New Brunswick’s fire director.
The Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office said Robert Rawls was on duty and driving a city-owned SUV when the accident occurred on Livingston Avenue Tuesday afternoon.
Officials said two 14-year-old girls and a 6-year-old boy were crossing at the Delavan Street intersection when they were hit.
Cellphone video taken moments after the accident shows witnesses running to help the three victims, who were all struck as they were walking home from school.
“The crossing guard who was assigned to that post resigned her position April 8,” Mayor James Cahill said.
The mayor added they’ve been training a replacement and no police officer was free Tuesday to fill in.
The children were taken to Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick.
One of the victims, 14-year-old Josalyn Peleaz, spoke with CBS 2 exclusively from her hospital bed, just hours after having a metal rod surgically inserted in her leg.
“I can’t move, I feel worse, I can’t walk, I can’t use the bathroom,” Peleaz told CBS 2’s Janelle Burrell. “I don’t remember getting hit, but I remember having the pain.”
Her friend, 14-year-old Arly Melquiadez, is recovering down the hall after sustaining deep scrapes and bruises, Burrell reported. The girls were picking up Melquiadez’s 6-year-old brother, John, from school when they were all hit. He suffered a minor injury.
Neighbors said the street the children were crossing is notoriously dangerous for pedestrians and that residents have recently lobbied for a dedicated crossing guard at the intersection.
“They don’t stop,” said Claudia Garcia. “Me and my co-worker Denise will literally stand there like 10, 15 minutes trying to cross the street and nobody stops.”
“I said it one day, somebody’s going to get killed one day and nobody believes me,” resident Ruth Garcia said.
Kids in the area often walk to and from school alone, residents in the area said.
“By themselves and it’s sad that their parents are not even there with them. But they’re walking by themselves,” a neighbor told WCBS 880’s Levon Putney.
“Sometimes, I will see a crossing guard here but yesterday, for some reason, she wasn’t there,” another local resident said.
A crossing guard and police officer were at the intersection assisting students Wednesday morning, but residents said they’ll be going to the City Council meeting Wednesday night to plead for a permanent solution.
Rawls remained at the scene and was taken to a hospital for an undisclosed evaluation. No charges have been filed, but investigators are looking into speed as a possible factor, Burrell reported.
Rawls was taking some personal days following the incident, Putney reported.
Anyone with information was asked to call Investigator Jeffrey Temple of the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office, at (732) 745-3373.
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