Under the best of circumstances, negotiating the turn from Christopher Columbus Drive south onto Merseles Street Downtown requires presence of mind. Just after one passes James J. Ferris High School, the road suddenly splits, creating right and left routes circumventing the massive concrete columns supporting the New Jersey Turnpike.
Then there’s a hard left turn and an immediate merge into two lanes of traffic on Merseles Street. Think of a go-cart track and you get the idea.
According to Hudson County Prosecutor Esther Suarez, in the early morning hours of February 28, 2021, 33-year-old Jose Colon lacked the presence of mind to negotiate the split. Intoxicated and driving his 1996 Honda Civic “at a high rate of speed,” he barreled straight into the “attenuator-protected guard rail” where Christopher Columbus Drive divides. Riding shotgun was Jesus Gonzalez, who died at the scene.
In April, Colon pleaded guilty to first-degree death by auto for driving while intoxicated within 1,000 feet of school property. On Friday, Superior Court Judge John A. Young, Jr. sentenced Colon to 10 years in New Jersey State Prison for Gonzalez’s death.
The sentence is subject to the No Early Release Act and includes a consecutive 10-year driver’s license suspension.