Rutgers Student Trying to Change Tire Killed in NJ Turnpike Crash

Drivers will experience a flat tire at least once in their entire driving years. It’s undoubtedly inconvenient to pull to the side of the road to change a flat, especially on a busy highway like the New Jersey Turnpike where motorists travel at high speeds. A fatal car accident can occur if other drivers become too close to a stopped car. Middlesex County has one of the highest rates of fatal accidents statewide, and the NJ Turnpike has its share of tragic incidents.

On March 21 at around 6:52 p.m., Santa Pumpura, 21, of Piscataway, and Halim Habib, 23, of Budd Lake, were struck by a vehicle when they tried to change a flat tire on Pumpura’s Infiniti M35 on the NJ Turnpike’s southbound eastern spur. Both were students at Rutgers University. According to a State Police spokesman, the two were on the right shoulder of the southbound stretch of the highway around mile post 107 when a 2011 Dodge Caravan, driven by a 58-year-old Basking Ridge man, was proceeding in the right lane and drifted into the shoulder, striking them.

Pumpura and Habib were taken by a Newark EMS ambulance to University Hospital with life- threatening injuries. Pumpura was pronounced dead about an hour later, and Habib remains in the hospital. State Police said the driver of the Dodge Caravan has not been arrested and no charges have been filed. Authorities are still investigating the crash.

A flat tire often places a driver in a very vulnerable position, especially when the person is stranded near fast-moving traffic. Motorists are safer pulled off the road to change a tire. However, accidents may still occur even in emergency areas if other motorists are inattentive to conditions. Some drivers may find it challenging to avoid a disabled vehicle on a busy highway, especially when they travel too close to the shoulder going between 70 and 80 mph.

It’s still not clear why the driver of the 2001 Dodge Caravan drifted into the right shoulder, where Pumpura and Habib were attempting to change a tire. The results of the police investigation are still pending. If it is determined that the driver who struck the two was negligent, he could be found legally liable for Pumpura’s wrongful death and Habib’s injuries and losses.

With the help of a New Jersey personal injury attorney, accident victims may seek compensation from the negligent person who caused the accident. The purpose of a wrongful death lawsuit is to provide monetary relief to the surviving family as a result of another person’s negligent or reckless action. An injured victim may seek compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other losses through a personal injury claim. Whether the negligent person is criminally charged or not, he may still be civilly liable.

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