Girl, 13, Dies after New Year’s Day Crash on Route 1

A 13-year-old girl from Toms River died Friday night several hours after a New Year’s crash on Route 1 that sent eight people to area hospitals, police said.

Just after 5 a.m. on New Year’s Day, a 2005 Nissan Sentra driven by Azel Hernandez Vargas, 27, of Toms River was crossing over Route 1 to go onto Deans Lane when his car was broadsided by a 2009 Nissan Quest minivan that was headed north on Route 1. The minivan, driven by Paramjit Singh, 59, of North Brunswick, broadsided the Sentra in the northbound lanes of the highway and sent the Sentra into a utility pole. One of the passengers in the Nissan Sentra, 13-year-old Blanca Azucena Hernandez Vargas, succumbed to her injuries at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Friday night.

A preliminary investigation revealed that the driver of the Sentra may have been distracted by a cellphone, and ran the red light. There are no indications that alcohol was involved in the crash.

Sentra passenger Cirilo Velazquez-Roja, 21, remains in critical condition and Sentra passenger Ilda Hernandez, 21, has been upgraded to stable condition. Sentra passengers Sarah Zollner,19, of Toms River and Cirilo Velazquez-Roja, 21, of Lakewood were treated for non-life threatening injuries.

Minivan passengers Rajinder Kaur, 59, of North Brunswick and Harinder Kaur, 32, of North Brunswick were treated for non-life threatening injuries.

First Aid Squads from Monmouth Junction, Kendall Park, Kingston, and North Brunswick, along with paramedics from Robert Wood Johnson University and JFK hospitals, treated the injured.

Traffic investigators continue to work on piecing together the events leading up to the crash. This weekend they were able to positively identify all the occupants of the vehicles. Anyone with information on the crash is asked to contact South Brunswick Police Officer William Merkler or Sergeant Gary Holsten at (732) 329-4000, ext. 7472.

Route 1 was closed for six hours while police investigated the crash.

Officers investigating the crash were nearly hit by a drunk driver. Route 1 was closed in both directions from Henderson Road to Beekman Road as police, fire, and EMS were treating people injured in the crash. The emergency workers were all in the northbound lanes of the highway, when a Nissan Maxima went around a police car blocking the southbound lanes at Henderson Road at 6:07 a.m.. The Maxima continued southbound on the closed highway and Sergeant Mike Rogers had to move out of the roadway to avoid being struck.

Rogers got into his patrol car and was able to catch up to the Maxima at New Road. The driver, Shawn Morrison, 27, of North Brunswick was later found to be intoxicated, police said. He was also found to be in possession of marijuana. He was charged with possession of a controlled dangerous substance, DWI, refusal to submit to a breathalyzer, reckless driving, two counts of failing to obey officers signals, failure to keep right , driving on a closed roadway, possession of a controlled dangerous substance in a motor vehicle, and failure to maintain a lane. He was released pending his  court appearance