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Man Gets 7 Years in Prison After Fatal Parkway Crash in Aberdeen

The April 2, 2011 drunk driving accident killed a Middletown father of five, and left three others with serious injuries

Eric Pereira, 22, of Jackson was sentenced Friday to seven years in state prison after being convicted of second degree vehicular homicide, three counts of third degree assault by auto and a motor vehicle summons for driving while intoxicated.

The charges stem from an April 2, 2011 accident on the Garden State Parkway in Aberdeen Township that left one dead and three with serious injuries, according to the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office.

The sentence was imposed by Monmouth County Superior Court Judge John T. Mullaney. Pursuant to the “No Early Release Act,” Judge Mullaney ordered that Pereira must serve 85% of that sentence, or just under six years, before he becomes eligible for release on parole, according to the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office.

Pereira plead guilty on March 26, 2012, pursuant to a negotiated plea agreement that was supported by the victim's family and the survivors of the crash, according to the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office. He was .

A joint investigation conducted by the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office and
the New Jersey State Police revealed that during on April 2, 2011, Pereira, then 20 years of age, was at a wedding reception at the Rockleigh Country Club in Rockleigh, New Jersey. Pereira was working at that event as a photographer’s assistant.

Pereira began drinking cocktails at the reception, according to the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office. While there, Pereira also sent text messages from his cell phone to a friend in which he admitted being intoxicated, investigators said.

Pereira left the wedding reception at about 9:30 p.m. and began the
roughly 80 mile return trip from the Rockleigh County Club to his home in Jackson.

During his drive home southbound along the Garden State Parkway, Pereira was
observed driving his Chevrolet Cobalt sedan aggressively, speeding and tailgating other vehicles, according to the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office. One motorist telephoned an emergency 911 dispatcher to report Pereira’s driving.

Near milepost 120 in Aberdeen Township, Pereira drove his vehicle "at a very high rate of speed," across three lanes of traffic into the far right lane and struck the rear bumper of a Ford Freestar van that was being driven by Kevin Donnelly of Middletown, according to the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office.

Investigation revealed that Pereira was traveling at between 85 and 92
MPH one second prior to striking Mr. Donnelly’s vehicle, according to the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office. The speed limit on that stretch of the Parkway is 65 mph.

Donnelly, a 43-year-old father of five, was on his way home to Middletown from a friend’s surprise birthday party with two other passengers in his vehicle. When Pereira' vehicle struck Donnelly's minivan, Donnelly lost control of the vehicle. 

The minivan traveled across three lanes of traffic and flipped over the guard rail separating the local and express lanes of the parkway, according to the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office. It overturned into the express lane and landed on its roof in the express lanes, where it was struck by a Toyota Siena driven by a 49 year old Toms River man.

Donnelly was pronounced dead at the scene as the result of traumatic head and neck injuries, according to the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office. Donnelly's front seat passenger, his fiancée Erin Small, 42 of Keansburg, suffered a laceration to her liver and injuries to her neck and body, requiring hospitalization at Robert Wood Johnson Hospital. Ken Mackenzie, the rear seat passenger in the van, suffered lacerations to his head as well as injuries to his spine and neck requiring emergency medical treatment. Keith Welge, the driver of the Toyota Sienna, received treatment at the Morristown Medical Center for knee and shoulder injuries, according to the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office.

While emergency personnel were extracting the victims, Pereira approached several motorists who had stopped at the crash scene and asked to be driven away so he could flee the area, according to the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office.

Pereira was then arrested at the scene.

Subsequent investigation revealed that his blood alcohol at the time of the crash was between 0.14-0.16%, or nearly twice the legal limit required to prove intoxication for those who have reached 21 years of age, according to the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office.

Assistant Monmouth County Prosecutor Michael J. Wojciechowski prosecuted the case for the State. Pereira was represented by Mitchell J. Ansell, Esq. of Ocean Township.

Patience August 31, 2012 at 02:00 PM
Wow! This is why there should be a crackdown on drinking and driving. Be careful driving and have a safe Labor Day weekend!

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