FAIRFIELD, NJ — A driver who attempted to flee the scene of an accident on Route 46 in Fairfield on Thursday was identified as Jason Struss, 43, of Oakland and was arrested for obstruction, resisting arrest, assault by auto, driving under the influence (DUI) and other charges.
At approximately 9:23 p.m., Fairfield police and fire departments and the West Essex First Aid Squad were all dispatched to the area of 333 Route 46 West on a report of a severe two-car motor vehicle crash, involving a 2008 Mazda and 2019 Nissan that had flipped over.
According to the Fairfield Police Department, while some officers attended to a 36-year-old female from Newark who was operating the Mazda and eventually transported to St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Paterson, some individuals who had stopped to assist the occupants advised other officers that the driver of the flipped vehicle had left the scene. The witnesses reported that the driver took off his shirt, dropped it near the scene and fled on foot in a northerly direction prior to police arrival.
Officers from Fairfield, West Caldwell and North Caldwell began searching the area for the suspect along with a K-9 unit from the Essex County Sheriff’s Department that attempted to track the suspect with negative results. According to police, an investigation determined Struss as the suspect in the incident.
“There were strong indications that Struss was injured in the crash, however to what extent could not be determined,” said Chief Anthony Manna, who assisted at the scene and with the search. “That is why we continued to aggressively search and employed some special investigative techniques in order to try and find Struss to assure he was not dying somewhere.”
This investigation led officers to the area of 34 Alan Drive, a residential neighborhood approximately a quarter mile or so from the accident scene. Sgt. John McGrory, who ultimately found Struss secreted in some shrubbery along the side of the house at 11:41 p.m., noted in his report that he knew he was close to the suspect’s hiding spot because he could smell the odor of an alcoholic beverage in the air. Struss was taken into custody without incident.
The West Essex First Aid Squad responded to the scene and Struss was transported, under arrest, to Morristown Memorial Hospital for evaluation. Struss was later released from the hospital and transported to police headquarters, where he was processed and charged with obstruction, assault by auto, resisting arrest by flight, DUI and a variety of other motor vehicle violations, according to police. He returned to the hospital later for additional evaluation at the hospital’s request.
An investigation led by Sgt. Christopher Niemiec and Officer Daniel Moran revealed that the Mazda was travelling west on Route 46 in the right lane in front of Struss’ Nissan, which police said was travelling in the same direction behind the Mazda. According to police, Struss’ vehicle struck the left rear of the Mazda, which caused it to spin, strike a utility pole and come to rest on the lawn of 333 Route 46. Police believe the Nissan may have flipped as many as four times before it came to rest.
“We are extremely thankful that no one was seriously hurt or killed in this crash,” said Manna, who commended the work of all of the responding emergency personnel in both the treatment of the injured and the apprehension of the suspect.
Route 46 West was closed, with the assistance of the New Jersey Department of Transportation, for more than three hours in the area of the crash.