Sunday, April 26, 2015

In teen's death, editors miss a powerful seat-belt lesson

A three-story building at 76 Main St. in Hackensack, at Bridge Street, was torn down early today after a 3-alarm fire began on Saturday in the kitchen of Choripan Rodizio, an Argentinian-Brazilian restaurant, and spread to 10 upper-floor apartments.

When the restaurant opened in early 2013, it was a welcome sign of renewal in downtown Hackensack. Choripan Rodizio offered great salads and some seafood dishes, in addition to lots of grilled meat, pizza and pasta aimed at Argentinians with Italian ancestry.


Would Stephanie Morgan be alive today and preparing to graduate from Emerson High School, if she was wearing a seat belt on Wednesday night, when her best friend lost control of a speeding SUV, rolling it several times?

A Road Warrior column from staffer John Cichowski on the Local front today and a news story on Saturday's front page don't even discuss the possibility.

Cichowski, along with the rest of the news and editing staff in Woodland Park, again drop the ball, as they have so many times before in reporting fatal crashes and pedestrian fatalities.

Could the local editors' disdain for safety belts be traced to the sad fact that some of them are so fat they wouldn't be able to buckle up, even if they wanted to?

Charges filed

On Friday, Bergen County Prosecutor John L. Molinelli announced the filing of charges against the unnamed 17-year-old girl who was driving the 2008 Nissan Pathfinder, a large SUV, at what "is believed to be a reckless, high rate of speed."

"The SUV flipped numerous times, leaving the roadway and coming to rest on its driver's side" in a yard, according to the press release.

No mention was made of whether Morgan was wearing a seat belt in The Record's initial Thursday story or Saturday's Page 1 story on the charges.

They are juvenile delinquency with the underlying offense of vehicular homicide and several motor vehicle summonses, including reckless driving, speeding and failure to abide by probationary driver's license requirements.

But from the outset, Jerry DeMarco's Cliffview quoted "authorities" saying Morgan wasn't wearing a seat belt and was ejected through the vehicle's sunroof. 

Finally, today's story on services for Morgan mentions she wasn't buckled in, but that the driver and a third occupant were (L-3).

Brother in car

Morgan was found on the street with severe head injuries, meaning her 15-year-old brother, who was in the back seat and climbed out of vehicle along with the driver, saw his big sister dying.

She was pronounced dead early Thursday at Hackensack University Medical Center.

An unbelted Morgan also is likely to play a big part in any lawsuit her family files against the driver's insurance company for damages, which would be extremely large considering the earning potential of a bright 18-year-old.

But those damages could be reduced based on Morgan's contributory negligence -- not buckling up.

A death notice today notes Morgan "had a real love of cats," and is also survived by "her cherished pets, Mia, Tommy, Joey a/k/a Dio, Sandy and Petey" (L-5).

Page 1

A long story on a "bloody feud" between street gangs in Paterson leads the paper today, reporting that the rivalry has claimed at least two innocent lives, basketball star Armoni Sexton, 15, last weekend and Nazerah Bugg, 14, another basketball standout, last year (A-1 and A-8).  

Reporters quote Passaic County Prosecutor Camelia Valdes and Mayor Joey Torres extensively on the decades-old rivalry.

Where's Speziale?

But no one asked Paterson Police Director Jerry Speziale why his department hasn't confiscated the gang members' guns and gotten the murderers off the street long before the shootings of Nazerah and Armoni.

If you've been on the moon and missed all the TV and front-page coverage of Armoni Sexton's death last weekend, burned-out Mike Kelly has written just the column you're looking for. 

The entire text on the Opinion front is mind-numbing background information, enough to discourage any reader from turning the page and searching for Kelly's opinion about the easy access to guns in Paterson and other cities (O-1 and O-4).

Christie lies

Another story on Page 1 today reports Governor Christie, "who is expected to run for the GOP nomination in 2016," frequently "bends the facts" when he meets with voters in New Hampshire or New Jersey.

Gee. New Jerseyans have known that since he took office in early 2010.

Mercury in tuna

In her The Corner Table column today, Restaurant Reviewer Elisa Ung shirks her responsibility as a journalist to tell other women of child-bearing age to avoid the fatty underbelly of tuna called toro, because it contains high levels of harmful mercury (BL-4).

The giant blue-fin tuna -- which can weigh 600 pounds or more -- is prized by the Japanese, whose exploitation of this fast-moving predator has led to it being raised on fish farms in Spain and other countries.

The tuna get their revenge on humans with high levels of mercury, which is especially harmful to children and women of child-bearing age.

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