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  1. #1
    MembersZone Subscriber Fire1839's Avatar
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    Default EMS vehicle plunges into Hackensack River

    12/25/2005, 9:42 p.m. ET
    The Associated Press

    JERSEY CITY, N.J. (AP) ó U.S. Coast Guard and other law enforcement agencies were searching the Hackensack River Sunday night for two emergency workers whose vehicle plunged off the Hackensack River Bridge.

    Tom Sperduto, of the U.S. Coast Guard in New York, said a Coast Guard crew responded to a call at around 8:15 p.m. about a Jersey City EMS vehicle that had plunged into the river off the span, which is also known as the Lincoln Highway River Bridge and the Route 1 and 9 Bridge.

    Sperduto said the drawbridge was up and the driver of the vehicle, traveling east from Kearney, would have contended with heavy fog at the time of the accident.


    Rescue crews, including divers, from numerous agencies were searching the 40-degree water Sunday night.

    Further details were not immediately available.


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    MembersZone Subscriber Fire1839's Avatar
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    Default update

    New Jersey State Police, NYPD, FDNY and Coast Guard on scene...

    vehicle has been located

  3. #3
    Forum Member nmfire's Avatar
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    News reports I found are saying it was a police vehicle with two police officers, not an EMS unit.

    Two Jersey City police officers in an emergency service vehicle plunged more than 40 feet into the Hackensack River last night after driving in dense fog off a drawbridge believed to have been partly open. As of 12:30 a.m. today, it was unclear whether either officer had survived, but one had been located and taken to a hospital.

    Late last night, rescue crews from throughout the region were searching for the second officer through the fog and murky waters.

    "There has been an unfortunate tragic accident involving two of our officers," Jersey City Police Chief Robert Troy said in a brief statement to the news media. Chief Troy declined to offer any further comment or take any questions just before midnight, but he said the search was continuing.

    The vehicle was found shortly after 10 p.m., about two hours after it went off the Hackensack River Bridge, which links Jersey City and Newark.

    The officer who was recovered from the water was taken to University Hospital, Newark.

    "The bridge was up and it was very foggy, and they drove into the water," said Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Tom Sperduto, who was en route to the scene just before midnight. "We are still actively searching and we will continue searching."

    The officers were apparently responding to some sort of accident on the drawbridge, on Lincoln Highway in Jersey City, also known as the 1 and 9 truck route, according to law enforcement officials.

    The vehicle was apparently eastbound, coming from Newark, officers at the scene said.

    Officials said that the water in that area is about 44 feet deep and was around 40 degrees last night. Chief Sperduto said that the calm waters would "greatly assist" in the search efforts, and that on average a man could survive for about three and a half hours in such conditions.

    The bridge is often used by truck drivers coming or going from the Lincoln Tunnel. It is a 300-foot-long vertical-lift bridge that is raised and lowered like an elevator in between two columns.

    When the bridge is raised, flashing lights and barricades caution drivers that the pavement will end.

    "Maybe those pieces were not functioning," said Jersey City Council President Mariano Vega, who was standing near the scene late last night. "All we know is that they are in the water. If those arms aren't there you just drive like there's no tomorrow."

    But, he added, "No matter how bad the fog is you would see it, because there's lights that flash."

    Search and rescue crews from the Jersey City and New York police departments were at the scene late last night, as were officials from the U.S. Coast Guard and the New York Fire Department.

    Coast Guard rescue crews were using heavy equipment from the Army Corps of Engineers to search the frigid water and recover the vehicle.

    Dozens of police cars lined the bridge and the surrounding roads, blocking traffic for several hours. Police and Jersey City officials were on their way to the scene and awaiting further information.
    Even the burger-flippers at McDonald's probably have some McWackers.

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    MembersZone Subscriber Fire1839's Avatar
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    yea i also saw that about it being the police...i got that first article from www.nj.com when the story first hit the news so all the facts were not and still are not in place...but i do know of some towns here in jersey that have the ems tied into the police dept...
    Last edited by Fire1839; 12-26-2005 at 03:36 AM.

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    The news conference indicated that the bridge involved had the safety gate knocked off in an MVA on 12/23. It had not been repaired. When the bridge was to be opened for a tug, the bridge operator called the JCPD to have them come manually close traffic with flares. The initial responding officers did not have sufficient flares, so ESU responded to deliver more. They drove across the bridge to the west side to make the delivery. As the flares were being set out, there was a call for service in the city. The ESU truck then began to drive across the bridge they had just crossed over. The bridge operator had begun to raise the bridge. The bridge lifts a secton of the roadway vertically (there is no incline). With the heavy fog, the officers apparently did not see the bridge open and plunged off the edge. There is no audible or visual warning at the edge of the bridge.

    The JCPD is a very squared away outfit. The city waterfront is directly across from Ground Zero ( you may remember that boats delivered hundreds of injured to Liberty State Park in the immediate aftermath of 9/11). Some of that real estate now is among the most valuable in the country and the downtown area is undergoing an incredible metamorphosis. Go two miles south and you drive into one of the most violent, gang-infested areas of the northeast. There have been 39 homicides in the city this year. Go two miles north and you are in a diverse, clean, safe working class area with a heart and soul. It is a city with character.

    This story is absolutely heartbreaking.

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    MembersZone Subscriber arhaney's Avatar
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    Rest in Peace

    What a terrible incident.
    Last edited by arhaney; 12-26-2005 at 12:20 PM.

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    Forum Member FyredUp's Avatar
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    This is a time to hope for the best and pray for the 2 Police Officers and their families. Nothing more, nothing less.

    This is a tragedy and my thoughts will be with them and their families...still hoping for a miracle.

    FyredUp

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    That's aweful. I feel for their family and friends.

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    Forum Member fftrainer's Avatar
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    Hopefully this works...

    Here's a picture of the bridge in question. I'm sure alot of people are wondering how you drive off an open drawbridge but when you look at this picture you will see George is right ( ) the middle section lifts straight up to allow ships to pass beneath.

    Sad situation. I was driving Christmas night and the fog was thick so I could techinically see how the circumstances were right for this tragedy.

    Rest in peace boys!
    Attached Images Attached Images  

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    Forum Member DeputyChiefGonzo's Avatar
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    There is a similar bridge over the Piscataqua River between Portsmouth, New Hampshire and Kittery, Maine. All that prevents a vehicle from going over the edge are gates and lights.
    Last edited by CaptainGonzo; 12-27-2005 at 11:57 AM.
    ‎"The education of a firefighter and the continued education of a firefighter is what makes "real" firefighters. Continuous skill development is the core of progressive firefighting. We learn by doing and doing it again and again, both on the training ground and the fireground."
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  11. #11
    Forum Member MIKEYLIKESIT's Avatar
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    What a shame. May the officers rest in peace.
    IAFF-IACOJ PROUD

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    MembersZone Subscriber britfan1's Avatar
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    The Benjamin Harrison Bridge between Prince George County and Charles City County, near Hopewell, is the exact same type of bridge, and if haevy for and/or heavy rain are present at night it is extremely easy to see how this can happen.

    Also, the warning gates on the Benjamin Harrison Bridge are actuelly on the bridge itself, just short of the lift span, and the fixed portion of thebridge has a pretty decent upgrade...in inclement weather I have a feeling, given a warning device malfunction, such an accident would be quite likely.

    My heart goes oput to the department as well as the guys' fellow officers, friends, and family. A massive collection of bad conditions, bad timing and bad luck once again causaes a tragedy.

    Rob

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    Is there no barrier in front of the portion of the bridge that opens?

  14. #14
    Forum Member fftrainer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by KemalT
    Is there no barrier in front of the portion of the bridge that opens?
    Sort of. My understanding is there were train crossing type gates. One of which was damaged in an earlier MVA hence the request for PD Traffic detail while the span opened.

  15. #15
    Forum Member NDeMarse's Avatar
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    May the brother's Rest In Peace

    A very tough loss, especially on Christmas Night.

    My thoughts and prayers go out to the families and JCPD, and for the members looking for the still missing officer!
    Good Luck, Stay Low & Stay Safe

    Nate DeMarse
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  16. #16
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    2 officers and a lot of unfortunate situations
    Plunge probe focuses on communication
    Wednesday, December 28, 2005
    BY BRIAN DONOHUE AND GUY STERLING
    Star-Ledger Staff

    Everything that could go wrong, did go wrong.

    The chain of events that led to the tragic deaths of two Jersey City police officers started last Friday, when a truck hit and damaged the safety gate on the bridge over the Hackensack River. Two days later, on Christmas night, they drove off the bridge to their deaths.

    In between those events were a series of other mistakes and miscommunications that, like pieces of a tragic puzzle, fell into place and caused the deaths of Jersey City officers Shawn Carson, 40, and Robert Nguyen, 30.

    Had just one of those missteps been corrected, the chain would have been broken. Instead, funeral services were being planned for Carson, whose body was pulled from the river hours after the accident Sunday night, as helicopters and dive teams continued the fruitless search for his partner, Nguyen.

    Investigators yesterday were focusing on a series of communication breakdowns that kept the two officers from knowing the bridge was being raised as they worked to light flares and set up traffic cones, then drove off through fog and heavy rain to their deaths.

    "The communications issue is key," said Hudson County Prosecutor Edward DeFazio.

    The Lincoln Highway lift bridge became hazardous late Friday morning when a truck knocked out the concrete barricade and barrier arm, which are engaged when the lift bridge is opened to prevent traffic from proceeding. The barricade functions much like a railroad crossing gate, automatically swinging into place when the bridge was opened.

    State Department of Transportation officials decided to keep the roadway open until the barriers could be repaired.

    In the meantime, they alerted the Kearny Police Department that officers would be needed to stop northbound traffic whenever the bridge needed to be raised for boat traffic, which happens little more than once a day.

    While Kearny was alerted, state DOT spokeswoman Erin Phalon could not confirm whether or not Jersey City police knew about the contingency plan.

    But Jersey City Deputy Police Chief Peter Nalbach said his department was not told there was a problem with the bridge until a call came in Christmas night, asking Jersey City to seal the Kearny side.

    Prior to the Christmas night accident, bridge operators had called the Kearny police three times for help in sealing off the bridge to allow a boat to pass by, Jersey City police said.

    But with a tugboat approaching on a rainy Christmas night, Kearny police said officers were tied up with other calls.

    "We told (the bridge operator) we would be a little delayed in getting there," said Kearny Police Capt. Robert Wilson. "In the interim, he called Jersey City."

    Instead of Kearny officers securing their side of the bridge, Jersey City officers had to drive across the span to the Kearny side.

    The first two Jersey City officers arrived and were told by the bridge operator the span was about to open, Nalbach said. They proceeded across the bridge to set up the roadblock.

    Nguyen and Carson arrived moments later with more traffic cones and flares, but never spoke directly to the bridge operator, who is a state DOT employee, Nalbach said.

    They began placing flares about 50 feet from the bridge opening, at the spot of the broken safety gate, Nalbach said. Meanwhile, the first two officers on the scene had their attention diverted by a pedestrian who approached them saying he had been robbed, Nalbach said.

    With the pouring rain and the bridge making little noise as it rose, Nalbach said none of the four officers realized the bridge had opened as Nguyen got behind the wheel of the Ford F550, his partner at his side, and began to drive back over the bridge to Jersey City.

    Only at the last moment did the two other officers see the opened span and begin yelling and waving their flashlights. Nalbach said officials are still not sure why the two men did not realize the bridge was open.

    "It's bizarre and it's tragic and I don't know if we're ever going to get an answer," Nalbach said.

    The Department of Transportation has undertaken an internal review of the communications, operators and safety procedure that were followed the night of Dec. 25, said Phalon.

    Meanwhile, the bridge remains closed due to the Jersey City police investigation. And the search for the 30-year-old Nguyen was expected to resume at daybreak today.

    http://www.nj.com/news/ledger/jersey...l=1&thispage=2

  17. #17
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    Mourners praise Jersey City cop's dedication, pride
    Friday, January 6, 2006

    By EVONNE COUTROS
    STAFF WRITER


    JERSEY CITY - Filing past the body of Police Officer Robert Nguyen, dozens of his brethren bowed their heads Thursday while placing white carnations on his casket.

    The flowers, symbolic of a good life, exemplified what Nguyen was all about, said relatives and friends who attended his wake at McLaughlin Funeral Home.

    "He was a hero and he was great," said Nguyen's older brother, Mason, holding back tears while addressing reporters. He was "an honorable man, proud police officer, and great brother and son."

    Mourners cried openly Thursday for the 30-year-old Emergency Services Unit officer, who was killed Christmas night along with Officer Shawn Carson when their police truck plunged 45 feet into the Hackensack River from an open drawbridge.

    Ironically, it was on that very same bridge that Nguyen had helped talk a young man out of committing suicide early in 2005.

    "The kid was hanging off the bridge and he wanted to jump," said Officer Eric Tavarez. "Rob talked to the guy and it took two hours in the rain and Rob kept talking to him and listening to him."

    The man eventually relented.

    "We used to call Rob 'Master Yoda,' because he had the Jedi mind trickü" Tavarez said. "He got him off the bridge."

    As crowds gathered outside the funeral home, Tavarez and fellow Officer Emilio Ramos spoke quietly inside of their best friend's love of life and sense of humor.

    "He's irreplaceable," Tavarez said. "He was so positive. Even when times were down, he kept our heads up. We used to call him 'Dimples.' When he walked into a room he just brightened up the room. He was aces."

    Nguyen also wanted to be the best.

    "He played football, baseball, basketball, lifted weights. And we'd box together sometimes," Tavarez said. "If we expected any two guys to survive a fall like that, it would have been Shawn and Rob.

    Ramos called his friend a religious and professional man who loved his family.

    "He cared about what he did," Ramos said. "Shawn and Rob were easy guys to ride with. They made eight hours go really quick. We'd talk about life. Rob was planning to do a lot of things with his life."

    Friends and relatives honored Nguyen in an adjacent room in the funeral home with photographs and a display of his Emergency Services Unit uniform and an excellence award he received in 2001 as a member of the 27th graduating class at the Somerset County Police Academy.

    Nguyen and Carson, 40, plunged into the river from the open Lincoln Highway drawbridge after delivering flares to the Kearny side to warn drivers that the bridge's safety warning system was broken. While returning to Jersey City, they apparently didn't notice until it was too late that the bridge's center vertical span had been raised for a tugboat to pass.

    Carson's body was found in the truck hours later. He was buried on New Year's Eve. Nguyen remained missing for several days before his body was found, snagged on debris in 50 feet of water, on Dec. 29.

    "When they found him it was official for me that he passed away," said Mason Nguyen. "There was a sense of relief, as well, more for my family than myself, because that's something they really wanted to have - the closure of having his remains, his body, with us so we could properly honor him."

    Jersey City Police Director Samuel Jefferson, who had known Nguyen for several years, called him dedicated and proud.

    "Every time I came into that office he was so polished," said Jefferson, a Vietnam veteran who sought Nguyen out when he joined the police force. "Being a U.S. Marine, I loved that. He wore the [Jersey City police] uniform well. He wore our colors well. There was nothing pretentious about him. He was genuine."

    Jersey City police Sgt. Greg Kierce, a 26-year department veteran, remembered Nguyen as an energetic undercover officer who worked for about two years in the narcotics intelligence unit.

    "We wanted him to stay, but he wanted to move on to ESU," Kierce said. "In all probability he would have made detective.

    "He fell right into it with us," Kierce said. "He wanted to learn and wanted to be involved. He never said no to an assignment and was very enthusiastic. He had a desire and need to help and loved working with people. He helped us work with gangs and was a very good undercover operative. He was a young officer who had a bright career."

    Today's wake is from noon to 8 p.m. at McLaughlin. Saturday's funeral will begin at 8:45 a.m., with the procession leading from McLaughlin to the Jersey City Armory.

  18. #18
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    From the Jersey Journal

    COPS BLAME DOT 'Failed to provide for safe opening'
    Saturday, February 11, 2006
    By BONNIE FRIEDMAN
    JOURNAL STAFF WRITER
    The investigation report released by the Jersey City Police Department yesterday blames the state Department of Transportation and its employees for the deaths of two Jersey City police officers who plunged off the Lincoln Highway Bridge on Christmas night.

    The seven-page report - released two weeks after the DOT issued its own report, which was quite critical of the police - calls into question several of the actions of bridge operator Kenneth Cordano on the night Officers Shawn Carson and Robert Nguyen died.

    Among the findings, the report states that Cordano:

    did not adequately inform the cops on the bridge that night when the vertical span was going to open

    failed to sound the fog horn used to warn boats

    and began raising the bridge while the officers were still placing flares on the rainy and foggy roadway.

    "No one but Bridge Operator in charge Ken Cordano knew exactly when he was going to raise the bridge," the report states. "The DOT failed to provide for the safe opening of the Lincoln Highway Bridge. Two police officers died as a result."

    Cordano and the other bridge operator working that night told investigators they did sound the horn, though police say nine others interviewed say they didn't hear it.

    Both the DOT and the union that represents bridge operators declined to comment yesterday.

    Carson, 40, and Nguyen, 30, were called to help their colleagues Officers Michael Scarpa and Jane Louf set up flares on the Kearny side of the bridge. The bridge's warning system was not working and the cops were blocking traffic while the span was lifted for the tugboat. Carson and Nguyen drove off the open bridge and into the Hackensack River on their way back to Jersey City.

    During a news conference at Pershing Field in the city's Heights section yesterday, police officials - including Chief Robert Troy and Lt. Michael Kelly, who led the investigation - blasted the DOT for allowing a bridge with inoperable safety mechanisms to remain open.

    Police also said Cordano contributed to the hazardous conditions by failing to activate one of the barriers on the Jersey City side, which reportedly had been working at the time of the accident.

    "The barrier gate on the Jersey City side of the east-bound roadway - labeled Route 1&9 - was operational," Kelly said. "We believe, if they flipped that switch, Officers Nguyen and Carson would have been aware that they were opening the span."

    Though the Christmas night incident was the first of its kind, police referred to what they said was a consistent pattern of sloppy behavior.

    "The DOT seems to simply classify a safe bridge lift as one that results in no serious injuries or death," Troy said.

    Police went on to say that the bridge operators gave no instructions on bridge raisings to the Jersey City or Kearny police.

    "Opening a vertical lift bridge span absent all four impact or crash barriers, absent one of the two warning gates, absent warning gongs, absent any audible or visual warning to motorists or pedestrians other than a traffic light on the bridge is not routine for the police or the bridge operator."

  19. #19
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    Also from the Jersey Journal

    ACCIDENT SCENE CAUGHT ON TAPE
    Saturday, February 11, 2006
    By MICHAELANGELO CONTE
    JOURNAL STAFF WRITER
    Video images show the Lincoln Highway Bridge span was already opening and leaving a deadly chasm above the river within seconds of when two Jersey City police officers joined their colleagues to set up flares on the Kearny side, police said yesterday.

    Portions of the surprisingly clear video were shown yesterday at a press conference revealing the results of the police investigation into the deaths of Emergency Services Unit Officers Shawn Carson and Robert Nguyen, who plunged off the open span just after 8 p.m. on Christmas night.

    Police also released shrill recordings of horrified radio calls for assistance made by Officers Jane Louf and Michael Scarpa after Carson and Nguyen drove off the bridge. Louf and Scarpa had been the first to arrive on the bridge to block traffic before the span went up.

    Nguyen and Carson, called to deliver flares, died on their way back to Jersey City.

    Screams are heard coming over the police radio at 8:04:32 p.m. before Scarpa's voice cuts in urgently, saying: "E-Squad just went off the bridge, get me, get me help, ASAP."

    The dispatcher is heard ordering units to the scene when Scarpa cuts back on, saying: "I'm gonna need boats, the scuba team."

    Louf then yells into her radio, "The bridge is open and the truck just went inside the water."

    The truck, with Carson's body inside, was found about 90 minutes later and Nguyen's body was recovered outside the truck after a massive, four-day search.

    The video, accidentally captured by a surveillance camera almost 4,000 feet away at the Jersey City Department of Public Works on Route 440, played an important role in the investigation, said Lt. Michael Kelly, who headed the department's probe.

    "It was critical to the police investigation because it showed the bridge operator raised the bridge span before officers had a chance to secure the roadway," said Kelly, speaking after yesterday's press conference, which was led by Police Chief Robert Troy.

    The video is grainy, but it clearly shows the bridge going up and the movements of Scarpa and Louf's radio car, the ESU truck and a Port Authority police car that had happened by.

    The bridge's warning system was broken, so Scarpa and Louf were sent to stop traffic on the bridge for an opening. The ESU truck crossed the bridge from Jersey City, made a U-turn and is seen on the video driving back to where the other officers were going to set up flares across three lanes on the Kearny side.

    The ESU truck worked its way through traffic and seconds after it got to where Scarpa and Louf were, the bridge was being raised, Kelly said. Scarpa and Louf "reported still having flares in their hands when they saw the emergency squad truck pull away."

    Carson and Nguyen got in their truck to head back to Jersey City before Scarpa and Louf had time to put flares across the last of the three eastbound lanes, Kelly said.

    As they began driving back, the bridge's vertical-lift center span was already high in the bridge towers, raised about 70 feet into its 100-foot climb.

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    Also from the Jersey Journal

    Next stop for bridge case: Prosecutor's desk
    Saturday, February 11, 2006
    By JARRETT RENSHAW
    JOURNAL STAFF WRITER
    The Jersey City Police Department announced yesterday that it plans to bring its report on the Lincoln Highway Bridge accident to the Hudson County Prosecutor's Office.

    The report into the Christmas night deaths of Officers Shawn Carson and Robert Nguyen, who plunged off the open lift bridge, levels blame on Bridge Operator Ken Cordano and the state Department of Transportation, which operates the bridge.

    The DOT refused to comment on the report yesterday.

    But whether any of those allegations lead to criminal charges will now be left in the hands of Hudson County Prosecutor Edward DeFazio.

    DeFazio, who had not yet read the report yesterday afternoon, said his office will review the report but said any investigation would be much broader, including the findings of the Department of Transportation, which released its own report last month.

    "I want to take a look at it, but in conjunction with all the information available," said DeFazio.

    Carson and Nguyen were killed when their Emergency Services truck plunged off the open span of the lift bridge after they had delivered flares to the Kearny side. Police were blocking traffic because the bridge's warning system was not working.

    The state Attorney General's Office will review both reports in light of the planned lawsuit against the state by the Nguyen family, said Paul Loriquet, a spokesman for the attorney general.

    But Loriquet said any criminal investigation would come from a recommendation by DeFazio.

    "If they believe they need us to weigh in on this, we will," said Loriquet.

    Police also withheld a number of reports and documents from the public yesterday, saying they want to present them to DeFazio first.

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