Fatal Car Crash at Camp Merritt Memorial

Fatal Car Crash at Camp Merritt Memorial

A 20-year-old college tennis player from Queens, Christian Gloria, affectionately called “Onin” by friends and family, died after he crashed into the Camp Merritt Memorial in Cresskill on October 13th, 2018. Gloria’s Infiniti Q50 was totaled and set aflame, its battery forced out of the car’s body. A rock in front of the 66-foot-tall World War I commemoration shielded it from the blunt force of the accident, but half of the plaque adorning the rock was broken off in the impact. This plaque, which lists the 578 people who died from the influenza epidemic of the early 20th century which dramatically affected those soldiers stationed at the camp, has been a significant piece of local history.

Gloria was traveling from Tenafly towards the traffic circle around 4:20 a.m., according to the owner of the Lukoil gas station, Will Iskandar, who was not present during the accident, but reviewed the security camera footage. “His car broke into a million pieces and caught on fire,” Iskandar said. According to the Saddle Brook-Elmwood Park Daily Voice, Detective Sergeant Jason Lanzilotti reported that Gloria’s speed at the time of the crash hadn’t been determined yet but the car was well within the 35 mph speed limit. The Cresskill Police Department is yet to follow up regarding the crash.

“We never thought we would be saying goodbye to such a wonderful young man, but we should not let this accident define who Onin was as a person. When people ask about Onin, the first thing that comes to mind is the accomplished young man he had become and his amazing tennis talents and his love for making music,” a relative wrote in the description of the GoFundMe dedicated to raising money for Gloria’s funeral. With countless comments sharing the love and loss from family members and friends and a thousand Facebook shares, it is clear that Gloria will be missed. The donation page has exceeded its goal by over two times the original amount with over five hundred donations.

Although this crash has been the center of local conversation, statistics provided by the Davis, Saperstein, and Solomon Law Firm prove that crashes into fixed objects in New Jersey are anything but rare, taking 10% of total crashes in the state. Additionally, New Jersey government statistics state that drivers between ages 16 and 20 make up the largest body of motorists involved in crashes. This data alone is frightening, but with the crash so near and with so many Tenafly High School students recently learning to drive, the event definitely hits close to home.

“It’s difficult to be safe as a driver sometimes because people don’t really do what they should, like yielding when they have to,” said Ally Waldman (’19). “They do whatever they want so that they can get where they need to be, and it’s all made worse when they’re not focusing on the road and get distracted.”

As the circle in Dumont already is an intimidating drive for new and experienced drivers alike, the recent crash certainly raises some discussion regarding the safety of the circle.

“The area near the monument and traffic circle has raised some traffic safety concerns over the past few years,” Iskandar said.

“Around this area, I’ve noticed there has been a lack of street lights, making the lighting really bad, especially near and in the circle,” said Emma Fuentecilla (’19).

Although Gloria was the only person in his car and there were no other vehicles on the road, this unfortunate occurrence poses as an important reminder to all drivers to stay aware of their surroundings on the road, no matter the time of day.