SPARTA, NJ – Sparta Police Sergeant had to dive out of the way of a burning truck on Route 15 on Thursday. 

Sparta police officers responded to a report of a truck fire on the southbound lanes of the highway.  According to police a 2004 GMC box truck was disabled on the shoulder with “thick black smoke pouring from the engine compartment.” The truck was owned by Gula Snacks, LLC from Landing, NJ. 

Police officers escorted the driver Jairo Simbaqueba, 34 years-old and the passenger Romero Gonzalo 57 years-old to a safe area.  Both driver and passenger are also from Landing.

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The officers closed the southbound lanes of Route 15 as the fire intensified.  As the truck became completely engulfed in flames it began to roll toward the two patrol vehicles. 

Sgt Joseph Pensado, a 13 year-veteran saw the truck rolling and ran to his vehicle in an attempt to move it out of the way.  Before he could move it, the interior of the patrol car filled with smoke from the burning truck.  Sgt Pensado, 45 years-old, quickly got out of the car and attempted to run to safety.  The burning truck, however, was so close that he was forced to dive out of the way.

The burning truck missed the patrol car and continued rolling backward until it was stopped by the guardrail on the left shoulder. 

Dash Camera video of the incident

The Sparta Fire Department extinguished the fire and the truck was towed from the scent.

Sgt Pensado suffered a “severely bruised right shoulder and injured left knee,” police report.   He was transported to the Newton Medical Center by the Sparta First Aid Squad where he was treated and released several hours later.  He is not expected to return to active duty for at least several weeks.

This portion of Rte. 15 was closed and southbound traffic was detoured for approximately two-hours until the clean-up was complete.  No other injuries were reported and charges have been filed. Cpl Adam Carbery, Cpl Rick Smith, Cpl CJ Grauerholz and Officer Dan Elig assisted at the scene.