From the New York Daily News, Aug. 15:
Crash horror on N.J. Turnpike
A Queens couple and their 3-year-old daughter were among four people killed when an 18-wheeler hauling bricks spun out on the New Jersey Turnpike yesterday – but their other girl miraculously survived, cops said.
A New Jersey woman also was killed and her two children and a 64-year-old Bronx woman riding in her SUV were hurt.
Charles Christmas, 40, died with his wife, Theresa Foti, 41, and daughter, Victoria, 3, when the big rig careened across several lanes of traffic and crushed their sedan in Teaneck, near the George Washington Bridge.
Victoria was still sitting in her car seat as desperate rescuers worked to cut her out of the wreckage after the 1:30 p.m. crash – but they couldn’t save her.
A helicopter landed on the highway to take the surviving daughter, Theresa, 4, to University Hospital in Newark, where she was being treated for serious injuries, said Sgt. Stephen Jones of the New Jersey State Police.
The girl’s uncle lamented that she would grow up without her loving and devoted father.
“He was a good man,” said Charles Christmas’ brother Mark. “He was the best [guy] I know.”
Norma Ryan, 37, of Voorhees, N.J., who was driving a Toyota 4Runner, was also killed.
Her children, Peter, 12, and Samantha, 1, were taken to Hackensack University Hospital in good condition. Passenger Maria Rosado of the Bronx was listed in critical condition.
The Christmas family was driving back from a week-long beach vacation in Ocean City, Md. They had planned to come home last Friday, but decided to extend the trip through the weekend to enjoy the glorious weather, said neighbor Stephen Cirbus, who was watching their apartment in Astoria.
“The children are darlings,” said little Theresa’s stunned aunt Loretta Dagliolo. “They didn’t deserve this.” The terrifying crash came when the tractor-trailer’s driver slammed on the brakes, struck a median and veered out of control across the busy highway.
It hit another truck, slammed into the Christmas family’s Nissan and sheared the roof off Ryan’s SUV.
“It’s scary – I missed it by seconds,” said a driver who gave her name only as Melanie. “I saw the truck go up in the air when it hit.”
Traffic backed up for nearly 10 miles on the northbound side and stretched across the bridge on the outbound side.
Cops were questioning the tractor-trailer driver, Dimitrius Tseperkas, 46, of Port Jefferson, L.I., and the driver of another truck last night. Charges may be filed pending the ongoing investigation, according to Jones.
Neighbors recalled Christmas and Foti as devoted parents who doted on their daughters, who often played in the fenced front yard of their brick home.
“They are the most wonderful people and the little girls are beautiful,” said Vicky Potamitis, 43. “They are very good people.” Christmas stayed at home with the girls and Foti worked as a speech therapist at a local school, neighbors said. Eva Trombetta, 75, struggled to hold back tears as she thought about the two sisters, one of whom perished and the other who lost her entire family.
“They are two beautiful girls,” said Trombetta, a neighbor. “If anybody is going to heaven, they are.”
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