Residents living near the Maplewood intersection where two people were killed and three others were injured in a car accident Tuesday night expressed disbelief Wednesday that such a tragedy could visit the normally quiet suburban neighborhood.
“Now and again you’ll see people speeding, but people live in the neighborhood, they work, they have kids here,” said Neville Brown, who lives a half a block from the corner of South Fourth Street and Essex Avenue. “People usually drive safely.”
“This is a quiet neighborhood. Nothing goes down around here,” said Sheila Vinson, who lives directly across the street from the home that was slightly damaged in the accident Tuesday night and where yellow police tape still hung near a newly replaced stop sign.
“There might be minor taps and bumps, but nothing like this.”
“It’s a tragic situation, it’s a sad situation, but we can help with the healing and awareness about cars and car safety with this vigil,” said Minister Thomas Ellis of the Enough is Enough Coalition, who was in the area Wednesday handing out fliers announcing a quiet memorial service scheduled for 4 p.m. Thursday at the intersection.
Ellis, a Newark resident, and neighbors also said at least some of the victims were Columbia High School students, although officials from the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office had not released any details about those involved as of early Wednesday afternoon.
Friends of the victims appeared at the intersection earlier in the day Wednesday but were largely too shocked to speak, Ellis said.
“Many of them did not have a lot to say, but the tears and facial expressions said it all,” Ellis said. “They’re saddened. One said, ‘I can’t believe this happened.’”
Vinson and another resident who lives near the intersection, Pat Pascuite, both described hearing a boom around 9 p.m. Tuesday night, at first mistaking the sound for thunder or an exploding transformer. Neither reported hearing the screech of brakes being applied prior to the crash and there were no visible skid marks on the roadway Wednesday.
“I was home when I heard the noise, grabbed my cordless phone, called 911, then I went outside,” said Pascuite, who said she saw two people who had been thrown clear of the vehicle amid the scattered debris. “There were many people here trying to help. The police and the fire department were here within minutes.”