SPARTA, NJ - The Sparta Police Communications Center received a call from a concerned motorist who began to report an erratic driver at 1:44 p.m. on Thursday, August 14. Before the call was completed the suspect vehicle had crashed. According to the Sparta Police Department, there is an ongoing investigation into a DWI accident on Rte. 517 near the entrance to the Sparta Middle School. A Morris county man was seriously injured in the crash.
The initial investigation conducted by Officer Arlene Lippencott reveals a 2110 Cadillac DTS, operated by 23-year-old Anthony L. Barabato of Netcong, was traveling south on Rte. 517 entering into Sparta from Ogdensburg. According to statements provided by eyewitnesses, the Cadillac was being operated erratically and could not maintain a single lane of travel.
As the vehicle passed the Sparta Middle School it crossed the double yellow lines and entered completely into the northbound lane. A 2014 MAC Tandem Dump Truck was traveling north. This truck is owned by EDG & Sons Trucking of Branchville. The truck was being operated by 58-year-old Edward Gratcofsky of Dingmans Ferry.
Gratcofsky took evasive action to avoid a head-on collision. The Cadillac struck the Tandem on the left side of the truck’s bumper, pushing and bending back the front wheels of the truck. It then struck and ruptured a 50 gallon fuel tank located below the driver’s side door. The dump truck was forced off the roadway where it came to rest disabled. Gratcofsky was uninjured.
The Cadillac sustained heavy front end damage with double airbag deployment. The vehicle bounced off the tandem where it came to rest facing west in the southbound lane. Barbato was trapped in the car with his legs pinned under heavy front end damage.
The Sparta Fire Department was able to extricate Brabato utilizing the Jaws of Life. He was transported by the Sparta First Aid Squad and Paramedics from St. Claire’s in Sussex to the Upper Soccer Field of the Sparta Middle School where he was airlifted to Morristown Medical Center.
Inside the Cadillac in plain view within reach of the operator, officers seized as evidence one consumed ½ liter bottle of Deep Eddy Ruby Red Vodka, three consumed bottles and one partially consumed bottle of Stella Artois Hard Apple Cider.
Barbato has been charged with DWI in a School Zone, Consumption and Possession of Open Containers of Alcohol in a Motor Vehicle, Reckless Driving, Failure to Keep Right and Talking on a Cellular Phone While Operating a Motor Vehicle. His court date has yet to be set. Additional charges are pending.
Both the Cadillac and Tandem Dump Truck were removed from the scene by Hayden’s Towing. Assisting at the scene were Sgt. John Lamon, Cpl. Brian Hassloch, Officer Kurt Morris, the Ogdensburg Fire Department and the Sussex County Hazmat Team. Rte. 517 was closed and detoured for more than three hours as a result of the accident.