NORTH BRUNSWICK, NJ—A 40-year-old man from the Monmouth Junction section of South Brunswick is charged with causing serious injuries in a bad crash on Route 1 on the evening of August 8 at approximately 8:50pm.
Just over 24 hours after the wreck completely closed the highway’s southbound lanes, the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office (MCPO) issued a statement announcing the arrest of Christopher Mertens, who was allegedly driving drunk and “accompanied by his two young children.”
Miraculously, no one was killed in the crash, which sent at least four people to two different hospitals. It’s not clear if Mertens needed medical attention himself after his vehicle smashed into the highway’s median barrier.
“Mertens rear ended a 2003 Chevrolet Blazer causing it to roll over and catch on fire,” reads the press release.
The MCPO said that the 19-year-old driver of a sport utility vehicle, and his 21-year-old passenger, were hospitalized, as well as Mertens’ two children.
New Brunswick Today reported live from the scene of the crash as volunteer firefighters began to put out the burning fire and saw into the Chevrolet.
The SUV had been severely crushed, thrown onto a grassy area between two shopping centers, and lit completely ablaze as first responders arrived on the scene, near the Staples store south of the interchange with Route 130.
The southbound lanes of Route 1 were strewn with broken glass and other wreckage, some of it still on fire, as vehicles drove over curbs and cut through the shopping center’s parking lot.
All of the victims were taken to Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick, but the driver of the SUV was subsequently transferred to St. Barnabas Hospital in Essex County for burn treatment.
Authorities credited Patrolman Jason Zier of the North Brunswick Police Department and Detective Jonathan Berman MCPO with determining Mertens to be the responsible driver in the incident.
Mertens is charged with aggravated assault, endangering the welfare of a child, assault by auto, and several other charges related to the crash.
The Middlesex County Jail’s records department said there was no record of him being incarcerated there as of the evening of August 9.
Officials with the North Brunswick Police Department and the Township’s Office of Emergency Management failed to respond to questions following the crash.
It was the second fiery crash in the Township in just five days. On August 4, the same day that a tropical storm hit the area, North Brunswick police shared a terrifying video of a crash on Route 1 North that took out two gas pumps, immediately lighting them both on fire.
“We are fortunate to say that there were no life threatening injuries reported,” said the department. “Just a reminder to please use caution while driving, especially days like today.”
As for the weekend crash, “The investigation is active and is continuing,” according to the MCPO. Anyone with information is asked to call Patrolman Zier at (732) 247-0922 ext. 316, or Detective Berman at (732) 745-4328.
Charlie is the founder and editor of New Brunswick Today, and the winner of the Awbrey Award for Community-Oriented Local Journalism. He is a proud Rutgers University journalism graduate and a community organizer, and was an independent candidate for Mayor of New Brunswick in 2018.