Icy roads lead to hundreds of crashes in NY, NJ; 2 dead after exiting vehicles

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Thursday, January 6, 2022
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N.J. Burkett has more on an icy traffic nightmare that led to hundreds of accidents from New Jersey to Westchester.

NEW YORK (WABC) -- Ice made for a treacherous and deadly commute across the Tri-State Area Wednesday, and two drivers were killed after officials say they exited their cars following a crash only to be struck by other vehicles that lost control at the same location.

There were hundreds of crashes from New Jersey to Westchester County, as freezing rain fell across the region, paralyzing traffic, suspending transit service, and delaying flights.

One fatality happened on westbound Route 3 near the Hackensack River Bridge in East Rutherford, while the second was on the ramp connecting the eastbound Cross County Parkway to the northbound Bronx River Parkway.

In both incidents, officials say the driver had spun out before exiting their respective vehicles. They were then struck by skidding vehicles that had lost control in the same spot.

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The victim in New Jersey was identified as 31-year-old Mark Kolta. The fatality in New York has not yet been identified.

In Newark, two police officers responding to a two-car accident were hospitalized with significant injuries after they were struck by a third vehicle just after 6 a.m. Both officers were outside their police vehicle, which was also struck.

The officers have been transported to University Hospital for treatment, and both are reportedly in stable condition.

"I am extremely grateful that the officers will both recover from the injuries they sustained after being struck today," Newark Public Safety Director Brian O'Hara said. "Newark police officers consistently face unpredictable dangers in service to those who live, work and visit Newark. I am pleased by the bravery these two injured officers exhibited in response to an earlier collision by putting their own lives in jeopardy."

In Teaneck, a NJ Transit bus lost control due to icy conditions and struck a tree with 10 passengers on board. Six of them were taken to Holy Name Medical Center and Hackensack University Medical Center with various injuries including a chipped tooth, concussion, and possible broken leg.

Anthony Johnson has more in crashes in New Jersey:

There were at least 300 crashes in Westchester, County Executive George Latimer said.

A 20-car crash closed westbound Interstate 287 at Route 9A in Elmsford, while nearly three dozen vehicles were involved in a pileup in Pelham that shut down the Hutchinson River Parkway near Pelhamdale Avenue.

No serious injuries were reported in either of those incidents.

As word of the crashes came in, the county suspended service on its Bee-Line buses and Para-Transit.

"The safety of our riders and operators is a high priority," a statement read. "We will monitor road conditions and service will resume once conditions improve."

Bee-Line and Para-Transit service resumed at 10 a.m.

In New Jersey, Governor Phil Murphy said state police responded to 170 accidents and provided assistance to more than 50 additional motorists, while local police departments responded to hundreds of similar calls.

"Stay off the roads if you can," Murphy tweeted amid the chaos, urging motorists to follow @readyNJ on Twitter for updates.

Multiple accidents closed the Pulaski Skyway in both directions just after 6 a.m., while crashes closed northbound Route 21 in Belleville and northbound truck Routes 1 & 9 in Jersey City.

Shortly after 7 a.m., South Brunswick police tweeted "severe icing, 24 crashes in the past hour, dozens of roads totally impassable. Avoid travel for the next 3 hours."

In Teaneck, police responded to 28 crashes, six medical calls and a disabled vehicle, all in the space of three and a half hours.

At DeGraw Avenue and Teaneck Road, there was a five-car crash with no injuries. At River Road and Maple Avenue, a vehicle struck a utility pole, taking wires down.

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A Teaneck Board of Education school bus was involved in a minor crash at River Road and West Englewood Avenue. Three high school age students were onboard, with no injuries.

The Teaneck Police Department also assisted the Bergen County Sheriff with various crashes on Route 4 throughout the morning.

The icy conditions also impeded operations at area airports still recovering from a post-holiday travel crush complicated by the COVID surge.

There was a ground stop at Newark Airport and hour-long delays at LaGuardia Airport.

Accidents were also reported in Connecticut and New York City, with crashes blocking all lanes on the westbound Goethals Bridge and westbound Staten Island Expressway.

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