Investigation after New Brunswick fire director hits kids with SUV

Toni Yates reports on children who were hit while crossing the street by the New Brunswick fire director. (WABC)
May 7, 2014 6:17:30 PM PDT
The city of New Brunswick says a police officer should have been posted at the crosswalk where three children were struck by an SUV Tuesday.

The kids were walking on Livingston Avenue in New Brunswick when they were run down by the city's fire director, Robert Rawls, at around 3:30 p.m.

CLICK HERE to view images from the scene.

Mayor James Cahill said Wednesday there is usually a crossing guard there, but the guard resigned on April 8th. The city was in the process of training a replacement, but in the meantime the mayor said an officer should have been posted.

Cahill said no officer was available because police were dealing with an incident in which shots had been fired from a car earlier in the day.

The victims, 14-year-old Joselyn Pelaez, 14-year-old Arly Melquiadez and her 6-year-old younger brother John Mejia, were taken to Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital. At least one of them was initially listed as critical, but two have been upgraded to good condition and the third, one of the girls, remains in fair condition.

Hundreds of people marched to the New Brunswick City Council meeting Wednesday night, demanding improvements at the intersection where the accident took place.

Witnesses say it was a clear day and that there was nothing obstructing the view of Rawls, so the victims' relatives are demanding to know how he failed to see them.

Rawls, 56, was on duty and immediately called authorities. Cahill said Rawls is very upset over what happened and has taken a few days off.

The prosecutor's office would not say how fast Rawls was driving at the time of the crash or how the incident happened. At the hospital Tuesday night, Joselyn's uncle said the family is outraged.

"I wanna know, if this guy work for the city, why he has no respect the law," he said. "The mayor come to see us and says sorry. That's nothing for me."

No charges have been filed, but an investigation by the prosecutor's office is continuing.

Anyone with information is asked to call Investigator Jeffrey Temple of the Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office at (732) 745-3373.