Charges not likely in aftermath of accident


The driver of a vehicle that struck and killed a young Jackson resident is not expected to be charged with any violations.

The fatal accident occurred on Farmingdale Road near the intersection of Sapphire Drive in Jackson at about 10 p.m. Sept. 5.

Police identified the driver of the vehicle as Steven Santoro, 43, of Jackson. He was wearing a seat belt and was not injured in the accident.

Killed in the accident was Erika Needle, of Jackson, who was a member of the first graduating class at Jackson Liberty High School in June.

Jackson police Uniform Service Commander Capt. David Newman said Needle was pronounced dead at 11:33 p.m. He said Needle and two juvenile males were walking across Farmingdale Road when they were struck by a car being operated by Santoro.

Newman said the two boys, who are residents of Jackson, were transported to CentraState Medical Center, Freehold Township, by Jackson First Aid Squad volunteers and MONOC paramedics.

One boy had a chest injury and the second boy had a hip injury, Newman said, noting that they are both expected to survive their injuries.

No additional information was available about the two young men.

Police Officer Trevor Crowley and Police Officer Richard Bosley of the Jackson police Traffic Safety Unit are investigating the accident.

The accident that claimed Needle’s life was a topic of comment from the township’s elected officials during the Sept. 8 meeting of the Township Council.

Councilman Howard Tilis offered his condolences to the Needle family.

Councilwoman Bobbie Rivere said there have been so many young people killed in Jackson that it is mind-boggling.

She was referring to a series of motor vehicle accidents over the past few years that have claimed the lives of people under the age of 21.

“My deepest sympathies to the [Needle] family and for the families of all the children who have been involved, it’s traumatic,” she said.

Councilwoman Ann Updegrave said it is tragic when a young person’s life is shortened by an accident.

“My condolences to the family,” said Updegrave. “It is terribly tragic, the number of lives that have been taken in Ocean County and especially in Jackson within the past six months. I am very glad that Ocean County [officials are] reviewing the roads in Jackson and they are going to be addressing the issues that they find that can possibly make the roads safer.”

Councilman Scott Martin said that as a father, he feels for the family and his heart and prayers go out to them.

Council President Mike Kafton said, “It is truly a tragedy when a child or anybody dies. We can’t keep losing our children and residents on our roads.”

Mayor Mike Reina said Needle’s death is another tragedy for Jackson.

“We can light up all the roads in town, but it won’t bring that child back,” the mayor said. “The driver … will have to live with this for the rest of his life.”