Passaic woman among 3 killed in Route 3 crash

NORTH BERGEN — A Passaic woman and two men from Massachusetts were killed in a single-car, high-speed accident around 5:40 a.m. Thursday on the Route 3 eastbound ramp that merges into Route 495 and the approach to the Lincoln Tunnel, authorities said.

Margarita Santiago, 32, of Passaic, was on her way to visit family in Massachusetts when she was killed along with her cousin, Miguel A. Barreto Jr., 34, of Leominister, Mass., who had traveled to New Jersey to pick her up, according to family members.

Authorities identified Santiago and Barreto as victims after notifying their next of kin but declined to reveal the identity of the third victim, saying they had not yet contacted his family. He also was from Massachusetts, they said. They did not immediately say who was driving.

Authorities believe speed contributed to the crash, said the Hudson County Sheriff’s Office spokesman, Michael Makarski. The car, a white Mercedes station wagon with Massachusetts license plates, struck a guardrail and slid 153 feet before breaking into pieces when it struck a light pole, authorities said.

The Sheriff’s Office’s accident reconstruction team has determined that the car went airborne after hitting the guardrail and landed on the driver’s side before sliding along the roadway, Sheriff Frank X. Schillari said in a news release.

All eastbound lanes were reopened at 11:20 a.m. after lanes were closed for the morning commute, causing delays of an hour and backups as far west as Route 21 in Clifton.

Bareto’s sister, Vivian Bareto, said her brother had taken their mother’s car to New Jersey to pick up their cousin, Santiago, and bring her to Massachusetts for a visit. She said that her brother wanted Santiago to meet his two daughters. She said she did not know the identity of the third victim.

There were two fatal crashes in the same area last year.

In August 2013, three men died and two were injured in a one-car crash when the vehicle struck a curb on Route 3 and veered off the roadway onto a grassy area. The car then struck a concrete pillar and rolled over several times, coming to a stop near an overpass.

Weeks later, a 25-year-old East Windsor man was killed and his passenger critically injured when the SUV he was driving overturned there.