Hudson County Prosecutor Esther Suarez has announced that on Thursday, January 6, Denisse Ortega, 36, of New Milford, was sentenced to 10 years in New Jersey State Prison for causing the crash that killed Mario Santamaria Sr., 66, on September 29, 2019, in North Bergen.
Prosecutor Suarez stated that Ortega previously pleaded guilty to Death by Auto – DWI while within 1,000 feet of school property and to motor vehicle summonses for Driving While Intoxicated and Speeding.
According to Prosecutor Suarez, on Sunday, September 29, 2019, shortly after 4:00 a.m., a North Bergen Police Officer observed a collision at the intersection of John F. Kennedy Boulevard and 76th Street in North Bergen.
Prosecutor Suarez stated that the officer responded to the scene and immediately began rendering aid to the two drivers who were both trapped in their vehicles. There were no other occupants of either vehicle.
According to Prosecutor Suarez, additional North Bergen police officers, North Hudson Regional Fire and Rescue, and Emergency Medical Services responded to the scene to render aid and assist with traffic control.
The subsequent investigation by the Hudson County Regional Collision Investigation Unit and the North Bergen Police Department revealed that Ortega was traveling north on John F. Kennedy Boulevard at approximately 83 miles per hour in a 25 miles per hour zone when her 2018 Nissan Pathfinder collided with a 2012 Nissan Altima being driven westbound on 76th Street by Mario Santamaria Sr.
According to officials, Santamaria, of North Bergen, was transported by EMS to Jersey City Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead at approximately 5:15 a.m.
Officials stated that Ortega was transported by EMS to Palisades Medical Center and then transferred to Hackensack University Medical Center to be treated for non-life-threatening injuries.
A North Bergen police officer who responded to the scene was injured while rendering aid to one of the drivers and was transported by EMS to Palisades Medical Center for treatment.
The investigation determined that Ortega failed to obey multiple traffic signals while traveling on John F. Kennedy Boulevard, including the traffic signal controlling the intersection of Kennedy Boulevard and 76th Street.
An analysis of blood samples determined she was driving while intoxicated, and the collision occurred within 1,000 feet of North Bergen High School.
The State was represented in this case by Assistant Prosecutor Andrew Baginski of the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office Homicide Unit.