Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Police Car Kills Pair Walking on Turnpike

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Police Car Kills Pair Walking on Turnpike

Article excerpt

A Washington Township police officer who was returning to headquarters after attending a training exercise at Fort Dix early Wednesday struck and killed two people who had abandoned their disabled car and were walking in the left-hand lane of the northbound New Jersey Turnpike, authorities said.

Sgt. Arsenio Pecora, 46, was behind the wheel of his marked police cruiser, a Ford Crown Victoria, when it struck Jason Champion, 41, of Brooklyn and Nuwnah Laroche, 34, of East Elmhurst, Queens, near milepost 115 and the Vince Lombardi rest area, the state police said.

Champion and Laroche had been traveling in a 2001 Cadillac Escalade that became disabled in the highway's southbound lanes, authorities said. A state police spokesman said the agency is investigating how the two made it to the other side of the highway. They were pronounced dead at the scene at 4:33 a.m.

An off-duty Little Ferry officer, who had attended the same training event at Fort Dix, witnessed the accident and radioed for assistance, said Chief Ralph Verdi of the Little Ferry police.

Pecora, a 20-year veteran of the Washington Township force, suffered minor injuries and was taken to Hackensack University Medical Center, Chief Glenn Hooper of the Washington Township police said. The windshield of his black-and-white cruiser was badly damaged by the impact.

"This is a traumatic event for everybody here," Hooper said. "We are a small family and it affects us all one way or another."

Pecora, a Washington Township resident, was paid $130,576 last year, according to state records. The chief would not comment on Pecora's status with the department, saying it was a personnel matter.

The Rev. Thomas Norton, a police chaplain who visited with Pecora at his home on Wednesday, said the sergeant was traumatized.

"He's very dedicated not only to his work but he's PBA president," Norton told NBC 4, referring to the Policemen's Benevolent Association, "and he's a very popular and very talented young man, highly regarded by the other officers. So it's sad."

Laroche was a secretary for AIG, NBC 4 reported. A relative at her Queens home asked for privacy for her grieving family. …

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