By Karen Zautyk
Authorities continue to investigate a fiery multi-vehicle crash that killed two people on Rt. 21 in Belleville last week. As of press time, the identity of only one of the victims was available.
Jonathan Fontenot, 26, of Newark, was reportedly pronounced dead at the scene of the Nov. 3 accident, but his name was not released until Thursday.
According to the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office, which is handling the case, the 7:25 p.m. crash involved a tractor-trailer and two passenger vehicles — a 2013 Dodge Dart and a 2004 Chevy Cavalier.
Fontenot and the other fatality, also pronounced dead at the scene, were the sole occupants of the Cavalier, authorities reported, but they have not yet said which of those victims was the driver and which the passenger.
The driver of the Dart was identified only as a 27-yearold Bloomfield man; the truck driver, as a 48-year-old man. Both were said to be uninjured.
The accident occurred in the southbound lanes of Rt. 21, south of the Main St. exit in Belleville. From Main St., the truck could be seen toppled over onto the guard rail on the elevated section of the highway, directly across from the State Fair mini-mall.
The exact cause of the collision is not yet known. The Prosecutor’s Office said that the tractor trailer and one of the passenger vehicles were on fire when the initial first response units arrived.
By 8 p.m., when this correspondent was at the scene, the flames appeared to be out, but, as seen from below, clouds of smoke continued to rise from the truck and firefighters were still hosing it down.
A small crowd was gathered in the mall parking lot to watch as members of the Belleville Fire Department climbed ladders to reach the underside of the vehicle, which apparently was otherwise inaccessible. Up on the highway itself, firetrucks from Belleville and Newark, along with ambulances and Belleville, Newark and State Police vehicles filled the roadway — their emergency lights visible for miles.
The Belleville PD redirected traffic on Main St. and blocked the southbound entrance to the highway, which was closed for several hours. The Nutley PD also prevented access to Rt. 21 from that township.
The accident is being investigated by the Prosecutor’s Office Major Crimes Task Force and the Belleville Police Department. Anyone with information is asked to contact Task Force detectives at (877) 847-7432 or (973) 621-4586.
At last word, the investigation was ongoing and no charges had been filed against anyone in connection with the crash.