The scene, according to one witness, was downright eerie: an out-of-control SUV silently speeding through an intersection in the early morning hours of Oct. 2, 2004, stopping only when it slammed head first into a tree on the lawn of a brightly lit apartment complex in Nutley. “They never slowed down,” said Chief John Holland of the Nutley Police Department. “They went straight into the tree.”
A third victim, Barry Pusaver, 22, of Kearny, went to the hospital in critical condition.
When the maroon, 1994 Chevy Blazer struck the tree, its steering column snapped in two. The impact drove the engine block into the front seat of the vehicle. Investigators later determined the Blazer was traveling 55 miles per hour — about 20 mph over the posted speed limit. Veteran police officers said the crash was one of the worst in recent memory.
The accident occurred about 3:20 a.m. at the intersection of Park and Passaic in Nutley. “There’s nothing worse than this one,” said town Commissioner Carmen Orrechio, Nutley’s director of public safety.
Police said if the Blazer had not struck the tree, it may very well have crashed into the apartments beyond it. “Other lives may have been lost,” said Chief Holland.
In order to strike the tree, Recchione blew through a flashing yellow light in the intersection, drove over a curb and careened across the lawn of the apartment complex. Stanchions were later installed to prevent a similar accident from happening.
Edrommel Noriega, 27, went through the light and crashed into a fence about 2:45 a.m. on March 7. Police said Noriega drove his 2000 Chevy Cavalier off Passaic Avenue and struck a railroad-tie wall on Park Avenue.
The Vespucci-Recchione accident was the 12th crash at that intersection in 2004.
Witnesses said Vespucci, a single mother of two, was drinking at the Shamrock Inn on Main Avenue in Clifton on the eve of the accident. It was in the bar that she apparently met up with Recchione and Pusaver and, in the early morning hours, as the bar was closing, decided to leave with them.
Kristopher Rivers, who is the father of Vespucci’s children, spoke with Vespucci around midnight. Everything seemed, OK, he said at the time time.
Rivers, Recchione and Pusaver had bowled two nights before the crash at North Arlington Bowl, which ironically is across the street where Recchione and Vespucci would be buried. Recchione was a member of the West Hudson Hospital bowling league. He played at the bowling alley every Wednesday. He was also an ambulance driver for Clara Maas Hospital in Belleville.
Vespucci was remembered as a loving and caring person by her co-workers at the Shop-Rite liquor store in Lyndhurst.
Recchione and Vespucci were buried a stone’s throw from each other at Holy Cross Cemetery in North Arlington. Hundreds attended the separate funerals and burials.
Each victim was remembered with kindness by friends and former classmates. Recchione’s mother, however, requested that no eulogies be given for her son.