New Jersey Engine Plows Into Home

BUENA -- A Minotola Fire Company truck crashed into a house Wednesday morning at Route 40 and Summer Avenue after apparently sideswiping a car that was attempting to turn.

"Thank God, no one was in the house," police Sgt. David Sherma said.

The fire engine driver and the other motorist, who was driving a 2003 Mitsubishi, suffered relatively minor injuries and were treated at South Jersey Healthcare Regional Medical Center, police said.

Sigfredo Calixto and his extended family have occupied the house for about 10 years. A representative of the American Red Cross was at the home to help make temporary shelter arrangements, and provide emergency clothing and food. Visibly upset family members and friends at the home declined comment.

The fire truck plowed through the southeast corner of the single-story house, tearing out two bedroom walls. An overturned mattress stood on its end outside the house, between the gold-lettered black truck and what remained of the south wall.

Firefighters, on hands and knees, retrieved a number of 50-cent pieces along with what appeared to be casino chips from a pepper plant garden behind the house, about 15 feet from the front of the truck. A plastic coin container in the bedroom apparently became airborne and landed outside when the truck hit the house.

Firefighters and personnel from Battelini's Garage in Landisville cleared debris for more than three hours before a heavy-duty wrecker towed the truck from the scene. Both of the truck's windshields were cracked, and its front end and driver's side were damaged.

One of the truck's wheels went through the foundation of the house.

"It was a tricky situation," Cpl. Larry Petrillo said. "They had to make sure the structure was safe before they moved the truck."

Borough Councilwoman Patricia Andaloro lives across the street from the house and said she has seen a lot of accidents at the intersection.

"I heard a big bang, I didn't know what happened at first, then I saw the truck into the house," Andaloro said, adding the state has turned down requests for double yellow no-passing lines on Route 40 from Summer Avenue to Brewster Road. "I guess they think there are not enough accidents," she said.

Retired police Chief Joseph Santagata said he has seen "quite a few accidents" at the intersection over the years. "Some of them have been serious," he said.

Traffic is particularly heavy at the intersection during the summer, when beach-goers head to the shore.

Wednesday's accident happened about noon when Minotola firefighter Andrew Welsh, 36, was returning from a memorial service at Friendship Church for the late Clarence Hoover, a former Minotola Fire and Rescue deputy chief, according to Fire Chief Bob Haugen.

Welsh was alone in the 2002 pumper, heading west on Route 40 as he approached Summer Avenue.

Witnesses told police that the driver of the car, 18-year-old Ashley Krichmar of Newfield, was stopped in the westbound lane of Route 40 to turn left onto Summer.

Welsh apparently attempted to pass the car on the right, Sherma said.

"The other driver said she did not think he was going to stop so she pulled to the right to get out of the way," Sherma said.

The fire engine left about 100 feet of skid marks as it veered to the right, sideswiped the car and slammed into the house.

No charges were filed pending completion of the investigation, Sherma said.