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TRPD: Drugged Driver Fled on Foot After Route 37 Crash at ‘Extremely’ High Speed

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A multi-car hit-and-run accident on Route 37, May 29, 2019. (Photo: TRPD)
A multi-car hit-and-run accident on Route 37, May 29, 2019. (Photo: TRPD)

Toms River police say a Seaside Heights man traveled at an “extremely high rate of speed” prior to a crash on Route 37 Wednesday, then fled on foot before being captured by an off-duty police officer from another town who witnessed the incident.

Kenneth J Spinelli, 58, of Seaside Heights, is facing numerous charges stemming from the crash, including an allegation that he was under the influence of drugs at the time. The multi-car crash occurred at about 5:25 p.m. Wednesday near the intersection of routes 37 and 166, said police spokeswoman Jillian Messina.

Messina said Spinelli was traveling at an extremely high rate of speed eastbound on Route 37 when his vehicle entered the extreme right lane on Route 37 East while approaching Route 166. The vehicle left the roadway and drove on the sidewalk before entering the intersection through a red traffic light. Spinelli’s vehicle slammed into another vehicle traveling northbound on Route 166, according to a police report. The collision caused the impacted vehicle to enter the southbound lanes of Route 166 where it then struck two additional vehicles that had been stopped at the red light.

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After the collision, Messina said, Spinelli fled on foot westbound on Route 37. Off-duty Franklin Township Police Officer Brian Quigley witnessed the accident and was able to subdue the driver, along with Toms River Police Chief Mitch Little and Officer Ryan Gashlin.

“Mr. Spinelli appeared to be under the influence of CDS,” referring to a controlled dangerous substance, or drugs, Messina said. “He was not injured during the incident and was taken Community Medical Center for evaluation.”

Spinelli was charged with DWI, reckless driving, failing to observe a traffic control device, leaving the scene of a collision with injury and failure to report a collision. In addition, he was charged with assault by auto, and driving under the influence of CDS.

The accident is being investigated by Traffic Safety Officer Robert Westfall and Traffic Safety Officer David Bartoshek. Assisting on scene were Ptl. Christopher Inglis, Gashlin and Ptl. Ryan Cummings. Traffic was backed up on Route 166 southbound for approximately 40 minutes, Messina said.