Boro engineer killed in accident while on vacation

Staff Writer

Boro engineer killed in
accident while on vacation
Staff Writer

Tragedy struck the Tinton Falls municipal offices earlier this week.

On his way home from a family vacation in Florida on a rainy, misty morning Aug. 15, Borough Engineer John Chmielowiec was killed in a one-car accident on a highway in South Carolina, authorities there said. Chmielowiec’s 18-year-old stepson, who sat in the front passenger seat of the car, also died at the scene of the accident.

Though there is no answer yet as to why Chmielowiec’s vehicle veered out of control, South Carolina Highway Patrol Lance Cpl. Josef Robinson said on Tuesday that "the 2002 Lincoln Navigator he was driving, somehow first drove off to the left side of the northbound lane on Interstate 95 (near Sumter).

"It then ‘overcorrected’ in the other direction, right, then swerved again back onto the left side, hit a median and went sideways," Robinson continued. "The vehicle then overturned several times, ejecting all of the passengers: the stepson, Chmielowiec’s wife, and four young daughters."

While the accident is still under investigation, Robinson did say that it appeared that Chmielowiec was the only one in the vehicle wearing a seatbelt.

"As far as we can tell, he was killed because the vehicle, when it was flipping, rotated over his side, crushing him over and over again," he said.

After killing Chmielowiec, 51, and his stepson at the scene, the accident ended up seriously injuring Chmielowiec’s wife, Nancy Dean, 42.

She "suffered some head trauma," Robinson said, and was transported that day to McCloud Regional Medical Center, Florence, S.C., where she remains in critical condition.

The couple’s four daughters, ranging in age from several months to 11 years, are also at McCloud in stable condition as of Tuesday, after having "sustained nonlife-threatening injuries," Robinson said.

The news sent borough employees into a state of shock and sadness.

"Everyone here is having a very hard time with the news. We are all in tears," Mayor Ann McNamara said. "Someone goes away on a family vacation to visit their mother for two weeks and the last thing you ever think is that you will never see them again, not to mention what his poor family must now face. They are so very deeply in our thoughts."

Professionally, McNamara said she could not have dealt with anyone more accommodating and patient than Chmielowiec, who served the borough as its engineer for about 20 years.

Noting that a borough engineer’s job can be a difficult one, balancing the special interests of residents with local restrictions and laws, she said he would "do just about anything to assist in a situation and help people better understand it."

"If a resident wanted him to, he’d go out and measure a ditch if it would help," the mayor added. "He would go to just about any length to provide assistance — and with such patience. We were looking forward to seeing him on Monday. There are so many things on the table in the borough right now. You just don’t think something like this will happen. It makes you take pause."

Council President Jerome Donlon echoed McNamara’s sentiments. "Aside from his personal relationship with us, professionally he was outstanding," Donlon said. "He knew the borough like the back of his hand. What a terrible loss."

Funeral arrangements for Chmielowiec and his stepson had not yet been made on Tuesday, according to officials.