The teenage driver of an SUV that collided with a moving train last month, killing a 20-year-old passenger, has been charged with several traffic violations, including disregarding a railroad crossing warning, police said Thursday.
Hawthorne High School student Jeffrey Cohen, 19, was also charged with careless driving and violating the terms of his probationary license, said Franklin Lakes Lt. John Backelaar. More charges are possible, he said, but police issued the summonses before the completion of the investigation because traffic violations carry a 30-day statute of limitations.
Marcus Ruta, 20, a 2008 graduate of Hawthorne High, was killed in the Jan. 24 crash at a Franklin Lakes railroad crossing. Ruta, Cohen, and another passenger, Joseph Belasco, 18, were returning to Hawthorne after a day of snowboarding at Campgaw Mountin in Mahwah.
Belasco’s uncle has said Belasco told him after the crash that the railroad crossing signal was not blinking; police and the railroad company that maintains the crossing have said it was. A spokeswoman for the New York, Susquehanna & Western Railway has said the warning equipment was tested the night of the collision and that it was functioning properly.
There is no gate at the crossing.
Cohen’s license prohibited him from driving with two non-family members in the car at the same time. It also required him to make sure that everyone in a car he was driving was wearing a seat belt, Bakelaar said. Ruta was not, he said.
Bakelaar would not comment on the status of the investigation other than to say it is ongoing.
“Part of our investigation has to do with interviewing witnesses and participants, but the content of those interviews I’m not going to comment on,” he said.
The 1994 Jeep Cherokee was travelling south on Pulis Avenue when it collided with a westbound train, police said.
The Jeep struck the train’s side near the stairway leading to the engineer’s cabin. Northbound traffic on Pulis Avenue had stopped at the crossing, police said.
Cohen suffered broken limbs and injuries to his face and head.
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