Civilian Also Killed When Car, Tractor-Trailer Collide On West Shore Expy

UPDATED 03/21/15 12:12 a.m.

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — An off-duty police officer from New Jersey and a second person were killed, and two other officers were injured, as they headed the wrong way down the West Shore Expressway on Staten Island and slammed into a semi-trailer truck early Friday.

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Late Friday night, police investigators were inside the gentleman’s club Curves near Tottenville.

As CBS2’s Jessica Schneider reported, that was the very spot where three off-duty Linden, New Jersey cops and their friends spent the early morning hours.

“This is not something a family should have to wake up to in the morning. We don’t want to see that happen to anybody,” Curves general manager Thomas Ford said.

A tractor-trailer was traveling south on the West Shore Expressway near Arthur Kill Road around 4:51 a.m. Friday when it collided with a car that was headed northbound in the southbound lanes.

Frank C. Viggiano (credit: Linden Police)

Frank C. Viggiano (credit: Linden Police)

The vehicle had been headed down Arthur Kill Road when it made a wrong turn despite two prominent ‘Do Not Enter’ signs. CBS2’s cameras saw a van making the same mistake on Friday night.

The tractor-trailer was behind another tractor-trailer that swerved and missed the car, but the second truck didn’t have enough time to swerve away before the crash, NYPD spokeswoman Deputy Chief Kim Royster said.

Surveillance footage from a nearby gas station shows the car going the wrong way.

“I’ve been here a year and a half. This is the sixth time I’ve seen it happen. This is the first with such a bad accident from it,” Ramzi Abdelhaq said.

Frank Viggiano, a 28-year-old officer who was seated in the right rear passenger seat, and the civilian, Joe Rodriguez, were killed, police said. The 27-year-old officer who was driving, Pedro Abad, and 23-year-old officer Patrick Kudlac who was sitting in the left rear passenger seat were critically hurt.

The general manager of the club didn’t want to appear on camera, but he said he was working with police and is confident that his employees would not have served the driver if they noticed he was intoxicated.

“We will take keys and call cabs for people when they’re intoxicated,” Ford said.

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Abad posted a picture of three shot glasses filled with alcohol on his Instagram account earlier in the evening.

The NYPD has applied for a warrant to test Abad’s blood alcohol level.

“It appears they may have been coming from some kind of party,” Royster said. “At this point there is no indication of alcohol in the car. There was no smell of alcohol.”

Royster said investigators will look at video footage and interview people who were inside the club to find out if the men had been drinking. She also said the car’s black box will help determine how fast the car was going.

The driver of the tractor-trailer tested negative for alcohol, sources told CBS2.

Pedro J. Abad, Jr. (credit: Linden Police)

Pedro J. Abad, Jr. (credit: Linden Police)

All three officers were relatively new to the force, Linden Police Capt. James Sarnicki said.

The 34-year-old driver of the tractor-trailer suffered only minor injuries.

Patrick Kudlac (credit: Linden Police)

Patrick Kudlac (credit: Linden Police)

Flags were flying at half-staff at Linden City Hall Friday, WCBS 880’s Levon Putney reported.

Linden Mayor Derek Armstead called it “a sad day in Linden.” He and Police Chief James Schulhafer were expected to visit the surviving officers in the hospital.

“Linden is a very small town. Everybody knows everybody,” Armstead told WCBS 880’s Sean Adams. “The officers involved are very proactive in our community and it is just a sad day in Linden, it really is.”

As CBS2’s Christine Sloan reported, Chief Schulhafer had a heart to heart talk with the officers on their force.

“I told them that this is a day that will live with them for the rest of their lives. I think we’ll all probably have some kind of regret and blame ourselves for something that we have done or said to those officers to prevent this tragedy,” he said.

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The southbound lanes of the West Shore Expressway were closed for hours as police investigated. They were reopened just before 10 a.m.