NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – The city’s fire director—who struck three kids with an SUV in 2014 and recently regained permission to drive a municipal vehicle—got into a crash last week, according to a police report.
New Brunswick cops found that Robert Rawls, the fire department head of 11 years, wasn’t at fault.
Rawls was driving his city-owned 2017 Chevy Tahoe on the northbound side of Route 18 in New Brunswick at 8:35 a.m. May 18 when the vehicle collided with a tractor-trailer driven by Japeth Echevarria, of the Bronx, New York, according to the police report.
Neither driver was charged at the scene, according to the report. They also weren’t injured, and both drove their vehicles from the incident.
The city restored Rawls’ driving privileges in late February, after he produced a driving abstract from the state that proved he’s a driver “in good standing,” city spokesperson Jennifer Bradshaw told TAPinto New Brunswick.
“He also passed a defensive driving course,” she said via email. “The police investigation into the May 18th incident has determined that he was not at fault.”
Rawls pleaded guilty in August 2014 to careless driving, a charge resulting from when he hit three children in a crosswalk at the intersection of Livingston Avenue and Delevan Street.
News reports that year revealed that Rawls had been in 19 motor vehicle crashes. The most recent one is his 20th.
Rawls didn’t respond today to an email from TAPinto New Brunswick. He also couldn’t be reached through two phone messages left at the fire department and his office.
But the police report on the crash provides additional detail, as described by Rawls and the other driver.
Rawls told cops he was driving in the middle lane when Echevarria tried to enter that lane. When the fire director noticed the coming Mack truck, he stopped, “trying to avoid the collision,” according to the police report.
Echevarria, meanwhile, told police he was driving in the right lane when he saw an “emergency vehicle ahead in the same lane with activated emergency lights,” according to the report. As the truck driver attempted to shift into the middle lane, Rawls “increased his speed and caused the collision,” Echevarria told the responding officer.
The truck driver couldn’t be immediately reached for comment.