Driver accused of killing boy on 1st birthday appears in New Jersey court

RARITAN, New Jersey (WABC) -- A man accused of mowing down a mother and her two children on a New Jersey sidewalk while drunk and high on drugs appeared in court Tuesday.

Matias Ortega had just turned 1 and was killed while his mother pushed him in a stroller to his birthday party.

The crash happened just after 7:15 p.m. on Saturday, July 7, in the area of Anderson Street and Second Street in Raritan. Police say 62-year-old Ronald Rebernik was operating his 2004 Ford Escape southbound on Anderson Street when he crossed to the northbound side, struck two parked vehicles, left the roadway and continued southbound on the sidewalk, where he then struck Matias, his 5-year-old brother Daniel and their mother.

Authorities say Rebernik then continued southbound on the sidewalk and reentered the roadway, striking two more parked vehicles on the northbound side of Anderson Street before becoming disabled.

Matias, born July 7, 2017, was airlifted from the scene and was pronounced dead at the hospital. The 5-year-old was in critical condition, while the mother also suffered serious injuries.

Daniel has since been released and is recovering at home. His mother and father were present in court.

"Their only interest in this whole matter has been getting justice for their two sons," attorney Joseph Delgado said. "They just want to see justice in this case."

Rebernik is charged with second-degree vehicular homicide, two counts of third-degree assault by auto, third-degree possession of a controlled dangerous substance and a disorderly person's offense of under the influence of a controlled dangerous substance. He was also issued numerous motor vehicle summonses for DWI, DWI in a school zone, careless driving, reckless driving, and a possession of a controlled dangerous substance in a motor vehicle.

Authorities say he had been arrested on drug charges just a few hours before the deadly crash. He will remain behind bars, at least for now.

Anyone who may have witnessed the accident or had additional information is urged to contact the Somerset County Prosecutor's Office at (908) 231-7100 or the Raritan Borough Police Department at (908) 725-6700.

* More New Jersey news
* Send us a news tip
* Download the abc7NY app for breaking news alerts
Copyright © 2021 WABC-TV. All Rights Reserved.