Police & Fire

One Year Later: Hit-and-Run Death of Somerville Firefighter Remains Unsolved

Somerville firefighter George Kavanaugh was killed by a hit-and-run driver one year ago on March 6, 2015

SOMERVILLE, NJ – The disturbing death of firefighter George Kavanaugh one year ago today hangs heavy over the borough like the black funeral bunting draping the entrance to a firehouse when a firefighter dies.

Kavanaugh, 75, was killed by a hit-and-run driver outside the Lincoln Hose Company Firehouse on Warren Street around 9:30 p.m. March 6, 2015. Earlier that evening, he and dozens of fellow firefighters had attended the funeral of another firefighter, Charlie Becker.

They had gathered at the firehouse afterwards to share stories about their fellow firefighter..

Sign Up for E-News

He had walked outside with friend and fellow firefighter George Riehman to head home. Riehman was going to give him a lift and walked towards his car. Kavanaugh was waiting for Riehman when he was struck. Riehman told police the hit-and-run driver backed over his friend and then drove forward, striking him a second time.

Riehman described the vehicle as a light-colored SUV, but told investigators he hadn’t gotten a good look at the driver.

Kavanaugh was transported to Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital-Somerset where he succumbed to his injuries. Left behind are his wife Anita, and several children.

An investigation ensued, but there have been no arrests.

Outgoing Somerset County Prosecutor Geoffrey Soriano released the following statement a few days before the anniversary of Kavanaugh’s death:

“The case remains an open investigation.”

Mayor Brian Gallagher reflected on the tragedy:

“This senseless crime continues to cause the family, the fire department and our community pain.  It needs to be resolved and the responsible party needs to step forward,” Gallagher said.

“The effort to solve the crime will not stop,” Gallagher continued. “I encourage anyone with information to please call the police department or the Crime Stoppers tip line. You may not think your information is important but it may be that piece the police need.”

A reward of $15,000 is being offered by Crime Stoppers for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the hit-and-run driver.

No different than any other New Jersey town, the firefighters in Somerville are a close-knit group; the brotherhood is strong. They bristle at the suggestion that it could have been one of their own involved in their brother’s death.

“I’m a little bit troubled when I hear that kind of talk, that someone in the fire department had something to do with it, or that we’re trying to cover it up,” said 45-year veteran Rich O’Neill, a former chief and curator of the Somerville Firemen’s Museum.

“People just talk.  It hurts. It hurts all of us,” he added. “I think by now it would have come out if we knew anything.

“It’s kind of strange,” O’Neill continued.  “In the fire department there’s really no secrets; guys talk, but I just don’t know what happened here.”

Somerset County Sheriff Frank Provenzano said surveillance video from cameras in the county office complex across from Warren Street were turned over to the prosecutor’s office, but failed to provide any leads.

Warren Street connects East Main Street and Veterans Memorial Drive East.

O’Neill said vehicles often back up onto the apron in front of the firehouse to turn and head in the other direction.

“When you drive down Warren Street and you look ahead, there’s nothing there, it’s like coming to the end of the world,” he said. “It’s very narrow, it’s a dark street.”

A page on Facebook, “Justice for George Kavanaugh” was created soon afterwards, hoping to develop leads. The site has over 1.000 ‘Likes’ but there’s been little activity on the page the past several months.

O’Neill drove the borough’s ceremonial 1942 fire truck at Kavanaugh’s funeral procession last March. He drove the truck in Becker’s funeral procession that month, too, and drove it a third time in another funeral procession for borough Fire Marshal Barry Van Horn.

He’d like closure.

“Last March was a real bad month for all of us,” O’Neill said. “If I could figure it out I’d love to, but those people who talk about the wall of silence, it’s nothing like that. “We all care about George and Anita.”

The link to the Facebook page, which also includes the Crime Stoppers reward information is: https://www.facebook.com/firemangeorgekavanaugh/.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News



AtlantiCast: Episode 15

On this week’s AtlantiCast, learn some important tips for controlling and avoiding diabetes from an Atlantic Health System expert, see how Atlantic Health is advancing cutting-edge research, hear what’s being done to keep health care environmentally friendly and much more!


Maplewood Police Blotter - Two Motor Vehicle Thefts Reported, One Recovered

May 16, 2018

May 7 - Burglary; Sometime during the prior two days, entry was forced to a business on Newark Way.  The keys to a GMC van were then taken from inside the business and the van was stolen.


May 7 - Motor Vehicle Theft; At approximately 9:30 p.m., a Jeep left unattended and running in the parking lot of 7-11 on Irvington Ave was stolen. The vehicle was later recovered in ...

South Orange Police Blotter - More Than 10 Vehicle Burglaries Reported

South Orange Police Blotter as of May 14

Auto Theft - A Roland Ave resident reported that sometime between 10:30 pm, Thursday 5-10-18 & 7:30 am, Friday 5-11-18 actor(s) unknown stole his vehicle (2016 Mitsubishi), which was parked in his driveway of his residence at the time.

Burglary to Auto - A Vose Ave resident reported that sometime between 10:45 pm, Wednesday 5-2-18 & 8:00 ...

Food, Fun, Music and Murals at MayFest in Maplewood on Sunday {Photos}

May 22, 2018

MAPLEWOOD, NJ - Crowds came out to enjoy MayFest on Springfield Avenue on Sunday, with plenty of food, live music and performances, and a chance to see the new murals and meet the artists who created them, as well as local residents Michael and Viktorija painting their mural “I Am Maplewood." 

Thank you to Carl Patterson of CP Photo Op Photography for use of ...

South Orange Community Pool Will Not Be Open Memorial Day Weekend; Opening Day Planned for June 2

SOUTH ORANGE, NJ - The South Orange Community Pool will have a delayed season opening, and will not be open Memorial Day Weekend, according to an update from the Department of Recreation and Cultural Affairs.

According to the Recreation Department, "weather issues, both the early spring snow and the ongoing spring rain, have caused delays in the construction project underway to ...

Upcoming Events

Wed, May 23, 12:00 PM

Temple Sharey Tefilo-Israel, South Orange

The Purposes and Rhythms of Jewish Living

Education Religions And Spirituality


Wed, May 23, 7:00 PM

Par 440 Restaurant & Lounge, Short Hills

The Extra Rich In Class Dinner Show with E.R.I.C.

Arts & Entertainment Food & Drink


Fri, May 25, 7:00 PM

Par 440 Restaurant & Lounge, Short Hills

The Extra Rich In Class Dinner Show with E.R.I.C.

Arts & Entertainment Food & Drink


Fri, May 25, 7:00 PM

Par 440 Restaurant & Lounge, Short Hills

The Extra Rich In Class Dinner Show with E.R.I.C.

Arts & Entertainment Food & Drink

SURVIVING A STROKE: Quick Medical Response Gives Mom Her Life Back

Carotid artery dissection. It’s one of the most common causes of stroke in younger adults.

And while you might not associate the word “stroke” with younger patients, the condition – if not treated immediately – could lead to paralysis and even death.

Lindsey Singh can attest to the importance of immediacy. The 31-year-old mother of two from Flanders experienced ...

Uniacke Named Bridges Outreach Executive Director as Bhatt, Tulloch Announce Retirement

May 18, 2018

SUMMIT, NJ - Bridges Outreach, Inc. Executive Director Lois Bhatt and Deputy Executive Director Bethany Tulloch have announced their retirement and, effective May 29, Richard J. Uniacke will begin his tenure as the Summit-based nonprofit's new Executive Director.

Uniacke, who will become just the organization's third executive director in three decades, was ...

Bus Accident in Livingston Kills One Wednesday

LIVINGSTON, NJ - Livingston police are investigating a fatal bus accident in the township Wednesday afternoon.

The police department has confirmed a death in the accident, which occurred shortly before 1:30 p.m. near the intersection of Latham Court and South Orange Avenue.

As of 4:30 p.m., detectives were still on the scene investigating the crash. A full report has not yet been released ...

DAWN of a New Day: New Treatment Insights Shared at Atlantic Health's 18th Annual 'Stroke Symposium'

May 21, 2018

MORRISTOWN, NJ - Time is of the essence when it comes to identifying and treating symptoms of stroke and it’s widely accepted that the sooner treatment is provided the better the outcome will be, however new research suggests that all hope isn’t lost for certain types of stroke victims whose symptoms aren’t treated until later in time after last being seen as ...

Former Saks Building Discussed at Special Springfield Planning Board Meeting

SPRINGFIELD, NJ - The regularly held monthly Planning Board meeting included a special discussion on the Saks Fifth Avenue property along Millburn Avenue bordering Millburn.

A nearly two-decade long lawsuit has been dropped on this nine-acre property.  Experts believe this property has the potential to generate sizable revenue for Springfield and increase home ...

Career Change for Working Moms Presentation at Millburn Library

May 21, 2018

The Millburn Free Public Library is pleased to offer a program on changing careers for working moms, presented by local career coach Tracey Gutierrez. This program will be held on Thursday, June 14 at 7:00pm.

Are you looking for a career change that better fits the lifestyle you want? Do you leave your children every day to slog away at a job you don't enjoy? You CAN escape from an unhappy ...

Third Annual South Orange Food Stroll & Pub Crawl is Sunday, May 20

The South Orange Food Stroll & Pub Crawl is back!

On Sunday, May 20, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., the South Orange Village Center Alliance hosts its third annual South Orange Food Stroll & Pub Crawl, a tasting event that showcases the diverse restaurants and unique retailers in our Village Center.

With the purchase of a wristband, you'll stroll and sample delectable bites and ...

Weekly Specials at Ashley Marketplace - May 18 to May 24

Shop Ashley Marketplace & Cafe for your everyday needs!

This week's specials are:          

Strawberry Banana Smoothie  $4.25 (Bakery)
Chicken Cutlet $7.99lb (Prep Food)
Turkey Hero $5.99 (Deli)
Juicy Juice 8pk  2/$5*
Friendly’s Ice Cream $3.99
Notre Dame Brie $6.99lb (Cheese)
Monkfish $9.99 ...