Prosecutors: Upper Freehold man who struck and killed crossing guard in Trenton indicted last week
Prosecutors indicted Duane Bennett, 43, of Upper Freehold, last week in connection with the death of 56-year-old crossing guard Antonio Wiley on April 18, 2016 at the Route 129 and Lalor Street intersection.
The Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office said Bennett was indicted on one count of second-degree death by auto and one count of third-degree unlicensed driver causing death to another. At the time of the crash Bennett was only charged with a summons and was not held. The indictment added the second-degree death by auto count, the prosecutor’s office said.
Bennett, who has had his license suspended 23 times, was driving while his license was indefinitely suspended for failure to comply with a court order and non-payment of surcharges. Since obtaining a license the 43-year-old has racked up 19 driving violations.
Witnesses told The Trentonian that Bennett, who was driving the Chevy Avalanche that struck Wiley, had ignored the traffic light at the intersection. Bennett had also struck a Nissan Maxima before eventually hitting and killing Wiley. The driver of the Maxima told The Trentonian that she was turning left from Lalor onto Route 129 and that she had a green light.
Wiley had worked as a crossing guard for at least a year at the time he was struck. Last year, Trenton Mayor Eric Jackson said Wiley worked for Vineland-based Tri-County Security, which was contracted by the city in June 2015 to provide one crossing guard at the intersection of Route 129 and Lalor Street for a year. The $52,416 contract states the services are being performed for the Trenton Police Department. Last August, Trenton city council voted to award Vineland-based Tri-County Security a contract to continue providing one crossing guard at the deadly intersection for $63,336.
Following the incident there was a push for an overpass in the area to make the crossing safer. Last year Assemblywoman Liz Muoio (D-Mercer/Hunterdon) requested a meeting after the crash took the life of 56-year-old Antonio Wiley. The politician called the meeting productive and outlined some of her own observations at the intersection.
“DOT is saying the buttons should give people adequate time to cross,” Muoio said. “There is a large Latino population here. All the signage is in English. Those are the kinds of things DOT can do quickly. The long-term solutions we’re going to need to study more in-depth.”
The assemblywoman said an issue with an overpass at the site is a lot of property on both sides of the road will be needed to make it handicap accessible. Sitting on three of the four sides of the intersection is a cemetery, a senior housing complex and a Dunkin’ Donuts.
While at the troubled intersection last year politicians observed one woman attempt to run across the street against the light, a school bus nearly collide with a car and another pedestrian cross the street illegally during a one-hour period. Officials said last year that improvements had yet to be made.
In addition to the concerns about how to make the intersection safer, the city, county, and state might also be on the hook for money in a lawsuit. An attorney for relatives of Antonio Wiley has put the city, Mercer County, the Mercer County Improvement Authority and the state on legal notice in August of 2016.
Bennett is scheduled to have another hearing on April 3, the Prosecutor’s office said on Wednesday.