OLD BRIDGE – With the tragic news of two more young lives – a graduate of Old Bridge High School and a rising senior – lost at the hands of an alleged drunk driver, Old Bridge Public School District Superintendent of Schools David Cittadino took to social media to express his feelings, “Enough.”
“If we keep on reading about it maybe we will remember,” he wrote in a tweet on Twitter following the most recent tragedy. “In 2019, you can Uber, Lyft, taxi, or stay where you are. Enough!”
Cittadino said he hopes and prays these events serve as a wake-up call “to what has become a terrible epidemic impacting our hometown.”
“I am sad for the affected families and the good people who are mourning in our town,” he said. “Once again, families are laying to rest their young due to senseless neglect by an individual getting behind the wheel when he clearly should not have.”
Cittadino said that as an educator and a superintendent, his “sole responsibility is to serve the Old Bridge community in whatever developmental resources are required.”
“To that end, we educate and help pick up the pieces,” he said. “We have great professionals helping with that right now. However, we all have a bigger responsibility. If we see someone who should not be driving getting ready to operate a motor vehicle, by any means necessary we must stop them.”
Authorities have said that in the early morning hours of July 6, a 23-year-old Old Bridge man was allegedly driving while intoxicated when he became involved in a motor vehicle collision that killed two female passengers in separate vehicles and injured another driver.
Middlesex County Prosecutor Andrew C. Carey and Old Bridge Police Chief William Volkert said Tristan R. Rodriguez, 23, has been charged with two counts of vehicular homicide in the second degree and one count of assault by auto in the fourth degree.
An investigation was launched after officers were dispatched to the scene of a crash on Englishtown Road near a JCP&L building in Old Bridge at 3:50 a.m. July 6, police said.
The preliminary investigation determined Rodriguez was allegedly intoxicated while he was driving an Acura on Englishtown Road when he crashed into the rear of a pickup truck, police said.
Krystal C. Diaz, 29, of Old Bridge, a passenger in Rodriguez’s car, and Sarah Hope Aziz, 17, a passenger in the pickup truck, were pronounced dead at the scene as a result of injuries they sustained in the crash, police said.
A 20-year-old male from Old Bridge who was driving the pickup truck was transported to a hospital and treated for his injuries. Rodriguez was also transported to a hospital and treated for his injuries, police said.
Cittadino said he knew Diaz was a gifted student and athlete.
“Regretfully, I never had the opportunity to meet her,” he said. “The outpouring of love from her friends speaks volumes about her as a person.”
Cittadino said he had the pleasure of meeting Aziz on several occasions.
“She offered a charming smile and a desire to make others smile in tough times,” he said. “We will certainly miss her presence in our high school next year.”
The school district offered grief counseling for affected residents on July 8.
Mayor Owen Henry said the township is in mourning and is deeply saddened by tragic events which have occurred over the past few weeks.
“My thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of the victims … [the events] all weigh heavy on our hearts,” he said. “When life is lost at such a young age we all suffer and struggle with the question of what might have been. We all recognize what a difficult time this is, especially the parents. May God give them the strength and courage to get through this unimaginable situation.”
The July 6 collision came on the heels of a crash on May 25 which claimed the life of Aliza Akhtar, 19, who was home on college break from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Akhtar’s 15-year-old sister was injured in the collision, according to police.
On June 10, Aliaksandr Tsytsenia, 28, was charged with one count of aggravated manslaughter in the first degree and one count of assault by auto in the third degree after it was determined the 15-year-old sustained serious bodily injury, according to Carey and Volkert.
An investigation revealed Tystsenia was allegedly intoxicated while he was driving his Mercedes Benz S550 in a reckless and aggressive manner on Texas Road, according to police.
Investigators determined Tsytsenia was allegedly traveling at a high rate of speed when he crossed a double yellow line to pass a vehicle that was operating at or near the speed limit. During that maneuver, his vehicle had a head-on collision with an oncoming Toyota Corolla that was being driven by Akhtar, according to Carey and Volkert.
On May 26, Tsytsenia was charged with vehicular homicide in the second degree, leaving the scene of an accident in the second degree, assault by auto in the fourth degree, and driving while intoxicated.
In response to those events, Ward 1 Councilman David Merwin has called for the reinstatement of the Old Bridge Police Department’s Aggressive Driving Program.
“This program works its magic [in] two ways; it has our officers on the roads issuing summonses and it creates a very high visibility for our community patrol,” Merwin said.
Funeral services were held for Diaz and Aziz last week.
The investigation into the July 6 collision is active and continuing. Old Bridge Police Officer Steven Connolly and Detective Jonathan Berman of the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office are leading the investigation.
Anyone with information about the incident is asked to call Connolly at 732-721-5600 or Berman at 732-745-4328.