New Brunswick fire director gets summonses for hitting kids with SUV

NJ Burkett has the Eyewitness News exclusive from the Williamsburg section. (WABC)
May 9, 2014 8:36:30 PM PDT
A New Jersey fire director, who was received summonses for hitting three children on their way home from school Tuesday, has a less than perfect driving record.

New Brunswick city spokesperson Jennifer Bradshaw said Robert Rawls was issued traffic summonses by the New Brunswick Police Department for careless driving and failure to stop for pedestrians in a crosswalk.

The incident happened around 3:30 p.m., as the children were walking on Livingston Avenue. Mayor James Cahill said Wednesday there is usually a crossing guard there, but the guard resigned on April 8. The city was in the process of training a replacement, but in the meantime, Cahill said an officer should have been posted.

CLICK HERE to view images from the scene.

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. All three are expected to make full recoveries.

But this is not the first incident on Rawls' driving record. Since the state of New Jersey issued his license in 1977, Rawls has been involved in 19 accidents, most recently in March.

His license was been suspended 18 times, mostly from unpaid fines. He racked up five speeding tickets along with violations for driving with a suspended license, failure to appear in court and nonpayment of a surcharge.

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."

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