RIDGEFIELD, NJ – A semi tractor trailer lost two of its wheels Friday morning, December 24, and set off a deadly chain reaction truck accident on the New Jersey Turnpike. The horrific crash occurred in the southbound lanes of the turnpike near mile marker 116.5, where it passes through Ridgefield, New Jersey. The truck accident area is in the far northeast part of the state near the Hudson River, about 75 miles east of Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania and about 14 miles northwest of New York, New York.
At about 6:50 a.m. Friday morning truck driver Hasan Toma was driving a 2000 Peterbilt tractor trailer. He was headed south on the New Jersey Turnpike, also known as Interstate 95. As the tractor trailer was moving through the city of Ridgefield two large tires with their hubcaps attached suddenly fell off the semi truck near mile marker 116.5 on the turnpike. The two heavy rear tandem wheels bounced into traffic, setting off the deadly truck accident.
One of the heavy tires landed in the right lane where it was hit by a 2000 Toyota Corolla, driven by 25 year old James Helmick, Jr. of Lodi, NJ. The impact pushed the tire back into the center lane where it was hit by a Ford Windstar van driven by Garbharan Amrit, 64, of Woodside, NY. The tire got lodged under the van, disabling the Ford and leaving it stuck in the center lane of the turnpike. The semi driver pulled his tractor trailer off onto the shoulder of the turnpike after the truck accident, as did the driver of the Toyota Corolla.
The passenger in the van, identified as 63 year old Samssondar Khamrhaj of New York City, got out of the stalled vehicle and was looking at the damage. At that moment 40 year old Francisco Martinez of North Bergen, NJ, driving a 1999 Chevrolet Astro, came up upon the crash scene and was unable to stop. Mr. Martinez smashed into the Ford van, pushing it into Mr. Khamrhaj. A passerby, 73 year old William Talbot of Fort Lee, NJ, stopped at the truck accident site and tried to give aid. At that point the driver of the van, Mr. Amrit, got out of the van after making an emergency call on his cell phone.
View Larger Map
The three men were trying to reach Mr. Khamrhaj when the van was hit by a 1999 Chevrolet Cobalt driven by 53 year old Peter Birdsall of Ridgefield Park, NJ. The secondary crash after the initial truck accident propelled the Ford van into Mr. Amrit and Mr. Talbot. The sedan then slammed into Mr. Martinez. The Cobalt ended up disabled in the left lane where it was hit by a 2008 Honda driven by 53 year old Daniel Healy of Holtsville, NY. This crash would be the final collision in the chain reaction truck accident.
In total six vehicles were involved in the truck accident, including the semi that lost its two wheels.
Police and emergency personnel rushed to the multi vehicle crash site. The passenger in the van, Mr. Khamrhaj, was fatally injured and died at the truck accident scene. The driver of the Astro, Mr. Martinez, was also killed at the deadly crash site. The driver of the van, Mr. Amrit, received “moderate abdominal injuries”. The passerby, Mr. Talbot, received injuries to his legs. The driver of the Cobalt, Mr. Birdsall had unspecified injuries. Mr. Helmick, the driver of the first car involved in the truck accident, was hurt in the shoulder. His unidentified passenger received minor injuries in the crash. All were transported to Hackensack University Hospital where they are expected to recover.
Police shut down a portion of the southbound lanes of the turnpike after the truck accident and rerouted drivers to the eastern spur of the interstate.
The 2000 Peterbilt was impounded after the deadly truck accident. Authorities with the New Jersey State Police Commercial Vehicle Inspection Unit would be conducting a complete inspection of the tractor trailer to determine why the rear tandem tires fell off the truck, and if there were additional mechanical problems.
The truck driver has not yet been charged, pending the completion of the truck accident investigation.
Gordon Elias & Seely, LLP recommend that if you know anyone who has been injured or killed as the result of a commercial truck accident involving a semi truck, 18 wheeler, big rig, tractor trailer or bus, tell them to immediately contact a qualified truck accident lawyer for advice. Often times the truck company and the truck driver will be from other states other than where the accident occurred. Truck accident attorneys often times have relationships with other experienced truck accident attorneys licensed in other states. Gordon, Elias & Seely LLP are licensed in Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana and Washington, DC and have informal relationships with other truck accident lawyers. For more information, visit their page about NJ truck accident lawyers or call 800.773.6770.