Girl, 5, Dies After Being Ejected From Car in Fiery Turnpike Truck Crash
EAST WINDSOR — A 5-year-old girl was killed after she was ejected from her mother's car when a tractor trailer rear-ended the parked vehicle and burst into flames on the New Jersey Turnpike before dawn Wednesday.
The 2006 Honda SUV driven by Ana Alvarez-Marquina, 31, of Rahway, had collided with a concrete barrier on the right side of the outer lanes at Exit 8 for Route 33 around 3:30 a.m., according to State Police Sgt. Ted Schafer.
A trucker, Lawrence Kulakowksi, 69, of Philadelphia, saw the disabled Honda that was parked partially in the shoulder and the right lane. He pulled over his 2015 International tractor so that it was parked in front of the car.
A second tractor trailer — a 2012 Freightliner — traveling in the right lane then hit the Honda on the driver's side and then hit the first tractor, wedging the Honda between the Freightliner and the concrete barrier.
The Freightliner then caught fire. The girl was ejected from the back seat onto the highway, according to Schafer.
All three vehicles were engulfed in flames and the drivers sustained minor injuries.
Adad Ortega, 49, of Corona, was behind the wheel of the second truck.
Video of the fire shows equipment and fire spread along the Turnpike for at least a half mile.
The Freightliner was carrying a load of car batteries but it's not known what the International was hauling.
Schafer said the girl was not properly secured in a car seat when it was struck but it's not clear how long the Honda had been disabled.
"The mother may have been trying to get her out of the car seat and out of the car. We don't know," Schafer said, adding that the mother was properly secured.
Schafer said no charges or summons have been filed against any driver. The State Police Fatal Accident Unit and the Mercer County Prosecutor's Office are part of the investigation.
The truck lanes were completely closed for about an hour for the initial investigation. Two lanes on the southbound side remained closed as of 12 noon.