Several teenagers in their cars at the drive-in heard the crash and ran to the scene, on Route 17 north. They saw a Honda Civic with its front end smashed, facing north, and up against an Acura SUV facing south, both vehicles pinned against the center median in the northbound lane.
They said they saw the officer pinned between the two cars. “The officer wasn’t moving … his eyes were closed,” said Ryan Conlon, 17, of Allendale.
“We heard, like, a screech, and then a loud thud … it sounded like somebody hit something heavy,” said Conlon, who was at the drive-in with two friends, Brandon Neuburger, 18, of Allendale, and Nicole Piazza, 18, of Ho-Ho-Kus3.
One customer, P.J. Montevirgen, 29, of Hackensack said he had to circle up and down the highway to try and get a spot, and saw an Acura SUV trying to get a spot and a police officer telling the driver the lot was full. The Acura driver suddenly floored his vehicle in front of the officer, jerked to the left, and disappeared behind some car. Moments later, Montevirgen said, he heard a crash.
“It’s a real popular spot. … I’ve been hearing about it [the drive-in],” said a 50-year-old Ramsey resident who declined to give her name. She said she had circled on the highway five times before she pulled into the drive-in. “People jockey to get position in the right lane to get in.”
As she pulled in, she spotted two police officers directing traffic and blurted to herself about the position of one of them, “That cop is going to get killed.” Five minutes later, she said, she saw all the commotion.
I dedicate the footnotes below to the memory of David Foster Wallace.
1According to Wikipedia, there are about 900,000 of us tucked into the little corner of Northeastern NJ comprised by Bergen County. In contrast, Sussex County, which is situated in the Northwestern corner of NJ and covers twice the land area of Bergen County, has only about 150,000 residents. My mother owns a small horse farm in Sussex County, and when we drive there Cheryl and I pass the "Welcome to Sussex County" sign, which features that county's slogan, "People and Nature Together". We've joked that the slogan for Bergen County ought to be "People at each other's throats".
2I say this based my experience driving in a number of different parts of this country. Los Angeles, for example, has lots of traffic, but when I've driven there, I've never seen the kind of nonsense I see here. I don't see it driving in Manhattan, for that matter either (with the possible exception of the taxi drivers).
3As densely populated as Bergen County is, the northern end of it includes some scenic, rural parts. Ho-Ho-Kus is up in that area. One bit of trivia: Ho-Ho-Kus was mentioned in an episode of Sex and the City ("Sex and the Country"), when Carrie Bradshaw drives into NJ from her boyfriend's cabin in New York state to get a burger. According to IMDB, this scene was actually shot somewhere in Long Island though.