SOUTH PLAINFIELD– A motorist was arrested Thursday and charged with drunk-driving and causing injuries to his passenger, who was thrown from his car when it was struck by a freight train, Middlesex County Prosecutor Bruce J. Kaplan and Acting Chief James Parker of the South Plainfield Police Department announced.
Hector Espinel-Mendez, 20, of North Plainfield was charged with the aggravated assault of Latoya Lorimer, 18, of Piscataway, who was injured in the collision with the train at 3:45 a.m. on Aug. 19 in South Plainfield.
Lorimer was flown by helicopter to Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick, where she was listed in critical but stable condition yesterday afternoon, according to officials.
Espinel-Mendez also is charged with drunk driving, drunk driving by an underage person and reckless driving. In addition, Norfolk-Southern Railroad charged him with a count of criminal trespass.
He is being held in lieu of $100,000 bail and must post the full amount before he can be released from custody.
An investigation by Officer Peter Magnani of the South Plainfield Police Department and Investigator Jeffrey Temple of the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office determined that Espinel-Mendez was intoxicated when he turned onto the railroad tracks at the New Brunswick Avenue intersection and drove east along the tracks for approximately 1.4 miles, officials said.
The car, a 1999 BMW, was about 350 feet from the railroad crossing at Front Street when it became disabled. As the west-bound freight train approached, Espinel-Mendez left Lorimer, the front-seat passenger, in the car and fled, authorities said.
She was injured when she was ejected from the car after the train struck the rear corner of the vehicle.
Espinel-Mendez subsequently returned to the scene and was arrested following the investigation.
Officials are asking anyone with information on the collision to call Officer Magnani of the South Plainfield Police Department at (908) 226-7693, or Investigator Temple of the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office at (732) 745-3373.
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