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JUNE 16, 2005


Princeton Pike, between Gainsboro Road
and Gedney Road, Lawrence Township

During the evening of Thursday, June 16, 2005, volunteer firefighters from Lawrence Road Fire Co. went to the aid of Lawrence First Aid Squad and other emergency medical personnel at the scene of a four-vehicle accident with numerous reported injuries. Firefighters helped EMS personnel care for the injured and move the victims to waiting ambulances. They also secured the battery cables on the damaged vehicles to prevent a fire and, for a total of five hours, provided lighting for police investigators.

It was 8:25 p.m. when Lawrence Township police received a flood of 911 calls reporting a major motor vehicle collision on Princeton Pike between Gainsboro Road and Gedney Road. Several patrol cars, a Lawrence First Aid Squad (Squad 129) ambulance and a Capital Health System paramedic unit were all dispatched. First arriving police officers confirmed that four vehicles were heavily damaged and that at least a half-dozen people appeared to be hurt.

Two of the vehicles, a four-door green 1996 Pontiac Grand Am and a two-door red 1999 Chevrolet Monte Carlo, both had heavy front-end damage and were facing north in the southbound lane of Princeton Pike. A third vehicle, a silver Toyota Rav 4 sport utility with rear-end damage, was stopped on Coolidge Avenue. The fourt vehicle, a four-door red 2000 Pontiac Sunfire, had come to rest backwards on the front lawn of a house at Princeton Pike and Coolidge Avenue.

More than a dozen Lawrence Road firefighters were in Station 22 taking part in a work detail cleaning up around the firehouse when they heard the police officer confirm that there were numerous injuries. Realizing that the first-due ambulance from Lawrence First Aid Squad would be immediately overwhelmed by so many injured victims and that mutual aid EMS units would take some time to arrive, a crew of Lawrence Road volunteers responded at 8:31 p.m. with Rescue 22 to assist Squad 129 personnel.

Assistant Chief Chris Pangaldi commanded Rescue 22. Capt. Shaun Dlabik drove. Rescue Capt./EMT Andrew Fosina, Ff. Ryan Dlabik, Ff. Joseph Dlabik Jr. and Ff. Steve Hodgdon made up the crew.

Rescue 22 arrived on scene at 8:32 p.m. While the rest of the crew under Fosina's direction went to work helping the Lawrence First Aid Squad personnel with the victims, Pangaldi went to each vehicle to assess its condition and check for entrapment. Pangaldi planned to call for a full rescue box if anyone was pinned. Ultimately, none of the victims were trapped. In addition to helping package and move the victims, firefighters secured the vehicle's battery cables.

Two Lawrence ambulances were joined at the scene by ambulances from Ewing Township Emergency Medical Service (Squad 139) and Ewing Township's Pennington Road First Aid Squad (Squad 132). At least one Lawrence ambulance made two trips to the hospital with patients. Ultimately, at least seven people were transported to area hospitals via ambulance, while others signed EMS care refusals at the scene.

The telescopic light tower from Rescue 22 was raised to illuminate the area, which was declared a crime scene and cordoned off with crime scene and fire line tape as soon as all the victims were removed from the vehicles.

At 9:14 p.m., following a police request for more lights, Pangaldi directed Mercer County Central Communications Center to dispatch Snorkel 21 from Slackwood Fire Co. Snorkel 21 responded to the intersection of Princeton Pike and Gedney Road and arrived at 9:18 p.m. Snorkel 21's basket was raised to provide additional lighting and to offer police evidence technicians an opportunity to take overhead photographs of the scene. Rescue 21 later responded at 9:45 p.m. at the direction of Slackwood Chief Michael Oakley. About 10 p.m., Snorkel 21 returned to quarters.

Rescue 22 and Rescue 21 remained on location until after 1 a.m. providing lighting for investigators from Lawrence police and the Mercer County Prosecutor's Office. Rescue 22 finally cleared the scene at 1:31 a.m. and was back at Station 22 two minutes later.

According to information released the following day by police, the accident was the result of an alleged domestic violence incident.

According to police, the driver of the green Pontiac Grand Am, a 24-year-old man from Trenton, was traveling north on Princeton Pike and chasing the red Pontiac Sunfire, which was occupied by his wife, as well as another man, a 16-year-old girl, a 4-year-old boy and a 1-year-old girl.

Police allege that the 24-year-old's Grand Am rammed the Sunfire occuppied by his wife near the intersection of Princeton Pike and Gedney Road. Both vehicles spun out of control and collided with the silver Toyota Rav 4, occupied by a 72-year-old Lawrence Township man and his 71-year-old wife, and the red Monte Carlo, occupied by a 32-year-old Hamilton Township woman and three young girls.

The suspect, the 24-year-old driver of the Grand Am, was arrested at the scene by police. After being treated for minor injuries at a local hospital, he was charged with two counts of aggravated assault by auto, five counts of aggravated assault, two counts of endangering the welfare of a child, and five motor vehicle complaints including DWI in a school zone, according to police.

While most of the victims suffered only minor injuries, the 32-year-old female driver of the red Monte Carlo was critically injured. After being rushed by ambulance to Capital Health System at Fuld hospital in Trenton, she was admitted to the trauma unit for surgery.

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