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Fire Director Crashes Into Three Children on Livingston Avenue

NBFD Director Robert Rawls Struck Juveniles with City Vehicle Between Delavan and Sandford Streets
Robert Rawls
New Brunswick Fire Director Rawls struck three children in his city vehicle on Livingston Avenue today. ABC New York

UPDATE (10:10PM): This story has been updated to include information from NBC New York and the Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office.

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—New Brunswick's Fire Director was involved in a car accident that seriously injured three children this afternoon on Livingston Avenue.

The youngest of the children was a six-year-old boy, who was struck along with two 14-year-old girls, one of whom sufferred a broken leg, according to NBC New York.

They were taken at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in serious condition.

Carmen Jaime, who identified herself as the aunt of one of the victims, said she had tried to reach the girl's mother via cell phone, but had been unsuccessful.

The accident occurred at the location of the construction site for the new Redshaw Elementary School, between Delavan and Sandford Streets.  That intersection in particular, and the Livingston Avenue corridor in general, have been brought up numerous times at public meetings as a danger to pedestrian safety.

Witnesses told Yates there was no crossing guard present at the intersection, another point of tension for community members concerned about public safety.

Rawls was driving his city-owned sport utility vehicle when the accident occurred some time around 3:30pm.  Televised images showed the 2010 Chevy Tahoe was dented and being loaded on to the back of a tow truck around 5pm.

The Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office took over the investigation because of Rawls role in the city government, one of ten department heads appointed by Mayor James Cahill.

"We are still getting information on the incident," said Cahill's spokesperson Jennifer Bradshaw.

"The Mayor spoke with the families of the children at the hospital this afternoon and offered his support and that of the City. He also visited with the fire director, who only expressed interest in the well-being of the children. We hope all recover soon."

Acting Prosecutor Andrew Carey was on the scene, where he confirmed he was leading the investigation.

Police closed off Livingston Avenue from Comstock Street all the way to Sandford Street as television news crews arrived, including ABC, NBC, CBS, News12 and many others.

Ray Agosto, a city resident who was present on the scene shortly after the incident occured, said police responded quickly to the scene.

"They were here in a heartbeat," Agosto said.

In March, the city received the results of a "road diet" survey which considered the possibility of decreasing portions of Livingston Avenue from four lanes to three and adding a bike lane.

The report concluded that a road diet could decrease accidents by as much as 20%. The city and county say they are collaborating on how to move forward with any plans for the road diet, but no action has been taken yet.

Denise Suastiga, a Hale Street resident, who crosses Livingston Avenue to get to her job at Livingston Pediatrics, said the incident highlights the need for changes to the configuration of the street.

"It's a dangerous street," Suastiga said. "This an example of why they have to do something about this."