By KATIE MOEN For Union County HAWK
WESTFIELD — A 17-year-old Fanwood resident who crashed his pickup truck into a tree at Mindowaskin Park on Friday night is facing charges of reckless and careless driving after failing to report the incident to police.
According to Chief Christopher Battiloro of the Westfield Police Department, the driver, who has not been identified due to his age, “intentionally accelerated” while making a left-hand turn from Park Street on to North Euclid Avenue, which caused him to lose control of the vehicle.
Police reports indicate that the vehicle jumped a curb and hit a trash can and a utility pole before crashing into a nearby tree.
Both the driver and his passenger, a 16-year-old Scotch Plains resident, were examined at the scene by paramedics before being released to their parents. No major injuries were reported.
The driver also was issued summonses for failing to produce his insurance card and failing to report the incident, Chief Battiloro told The Westfield Leader.
The accident, which took place just after 10:30 p.m. on Friday evening, was called in by an observer. Chief Battiloro told The Leader that the caller, who also has not been identified, noted that, “a large number of people” were present at the scene.
“We have been asked whether or not this could have been a drag-racing incident, but there isn’t anything in the reports to directly support that. [The driver] admitted that he intentionally accelerated while making the turn, and this incident likely transpired because of his reckless driving,” Chief Battiloro said. “If there were other people at the park at the time, we don’t believe that they were involved.”
Though Mindowaskin Park technically closes at dusk, Chief Battiloro continued, the area has long since been known as an after-hours hangout for local kids.
“We have had a problem with teens gathering in Mindowaskin Park after dark for some time now,” Chief Battiloro continued, adding that while police have already installed temporary lighting and increased their patrols of the park, especially at night and on weekends, the ultimate solution to the problem may require the cooperation of other town officials as well.
“I will be speaking with some of the residents who have shared their concerns about this in the coming days,” Chief Battiloro said, “but we also need to start finding ways to make the park — and other popular areas like schoolyards — less attractive after dark. If kids are hanging out there because it’s not well-lit, then we need better illumination. If they’re hanging out there because they want to access the playground, then we need to figure out a way to block it off more effectively. This is all part of a larger conversation.”
Brian Mueller, a Westfield resident who lives near the park, reached out to The Leader with some photos of the Friday-night incident.
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