Drunk Driver Plowed into Baby, Killing Him on 1st Birthday — Cops
RARITAN BOROUGH — A one-year-old boy was killed and other family members remain badly hurt after when a drunk driver hit them on the sidewalk — smashing into multiple parked cars along the way, authorities say.
The incident happened on Saturday night in the area of Anderson Street and Second Street, Somerset County Prosecutor Michael H. Robertson said. At around 7:15, 62-year-old borough resident Ronald B. Rebernik was driving his 2004 Ford Escape South on Anderson Street when he crossed into northbound traffic and hit two parked cars before continuing to drive on the sidewalk, Robertson said.
He hit three pedestrians before continuing to hit two more parked cars on the northbound side, and his vehicle was disabled, Robertson said.
Robertson said the 1-year-old was being pushed in a stroller by his 36-year-old mother, who'd been walking with his 5-year-old brother. The mother suffered serious injuries, and the older son suffered critical injuries, Robertson said. The baby was airlifted from the scene to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
The baby was identified as Matias Ortega in a story in the Courier Post. The story said Saturday was also Ortega's first birthday, citing a makeshift shrine set up in the area of the crash.
"It's just heartbreaking," Cynthia Grasso told the paper. "It leaves me speechless."
The Courier Post noted that the crash came as the borough is running a month-long pedestrian safety campaign.
Rebernik has been charged with second-degree vehicular homicide, two counts of third-degree assault by auto, third-degree possession of a controlled dangerous substance, and being under the influence of a controlled dangerous substance. He was also charged with several motor vehicle summonses including driving while intoxicated, driving while intoxicated in a school zone, careless driving, reckless driving, and having a controlled dangerous substance in a school zone.
He was being treated at a local hospital before being transported to the Somerset County Jail, the prosecutor's office said.
Robertson asked anyone with information about the incident to call the prosecutor's office at 908-231-7100 or the Raritan Borough Police Department at 908-725-6700. Information can also be provided through the Somerset County Crime Stoppers' Tip Line at 1-888-577-TIPS.