Police Car Involved In Fatal Crash That Killed 2 Pedestrians On NJ Turnpike

SECAUCUS, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — A police car struck and killed two pedestrians on the New Jersey Turnpike.

The accident happened around 1 a.m. Wednesday in the northbound lanes of the eastern spur near exit 17 in Secaucus.

State police said the victims’ 2001 Cadillac Escalade broke down in the southbound lanes. They crossed the median and were struck in the left lane of the northbound side about a mile south of the Vince Lombardi service area, CBS2’s Janelle Burrell reported.

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The police vehicle was driven by an officer with the Washington Township Police Department in Bergen County, state police said. The vehicle had severe damage to the windshield and front end, 1010 WINS’ Glenn Schuck reported.

The officer, identified as 46-year-old Arsenio Pecora, was treated for minor injuries at the scene.

The Washington Township Police Department said Pecora was on his way home from a nighttime training exercise in Fort Dix at the time of the accident, Burrell reported.

The victims are identified as Jason Champion, 41, of Brooklyn, and Nuwnah Laroche, 34, of East Elmhurst, Queens.

“Everybody is devastated. We’re sad,” said friend Darryl Johnson.

At Laroche’s home in Queens, a note was left on the door asking for privacy.

In Champion’s Brooklyn neighborhood, friends remember seeing him looking happy as he left with Laroche that evening, CBS2’s Christine Sloan reported.

“He passed back and he had a nice young lady with him, and stuff. And that was the last time we seen him,” said friend Kenroy John. “He was like a role model to us. He used to tell us a lot of jokes.”

“He was a father of two. He was a good guy. He worked for housing,” said friend Darryl Johnson.

The accident is under investigation. New Jersey State Police are looking into when Officer Pecora left the training exercise. They’re also trying to figure out why Champion and Laroche got out of their car and walked on the turnpike, something officials say you should never do.

Debris littered the roadway, causing massive traffic delays for hours. At one point, delays stretched more than 2 miles.

(TM and © Copyright 2015 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2015 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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