Hudson County Prosecutor Esther Suarez has released the following information:

The Hudson County Regional Collision Investigation Unit has upgraded the charges against the driver who killed a 66-year-old North Bergen man in a fatal crash on September 29, 2019.

Denisse Ortega, age 35, of New Milford, has been charged with Aggravated Manslaughter in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:11-4a(1), a crime of the first degree. Shortly after the fatal crash, Ortega was charged with one count of Death by Auto in violation of NJSA 2C:11-5a, a crime of the second degree. That charge has been amended to Death by Auto – DWI while within 1,000 feet of school property in violation of NJSA 2C:11-5a and 2C:11-5b(3)(a), a crime of the first degree. Ortega turned herself in on Monday, August 31, 2020.

On Sunday, September 29, 2019, shortly after 4:00 a.m., a fatal motor vehicle collision occurred at the intersection of John F. Kennedy Boulevard and 76th Street in North Bergen. The collision was observed by a nearby North Bergen Police Officer who was on patrol in the area.

After reporting the collision, the police officer responded to the scene and immediately began rendering aid to the two drivers who were both trapped in their vehicles. There were no other occupants of either vehicle.

Additional North Bergen police officers, North Hudson Regional Fire & Rescue, and Emergency Medical Services responded to the scene to render aid and assist with traffic control.

The initial investigation by the Hudson County Regional Collision Investigation Unit and the North Bergen Police Department revealed that a 2018 Nissan Pathfinder driven by Denisse Ortega, of New Milford, was traveling north on John F. Kennedy Boulevard when she collided with a 2012 Nissan Altima driven westbound on 76th Street by Mario Santamaria Sr. It was determined that Ortega failed to obey multiple traffic signals while traveling on John F. Kennedy Boulevard.

Santamaria, age 66, of North Bergen, was transported by EMS to Jersey City Medical Center. He was pronounced dead at approximately 5:15 a.m.

Ortega was treated at the scene before being transported by EMS to Palisades Medical Center. Ortega was subsequently transferred to Hackensack University Medical Center where she was treated for non-life threatening injuries.

One of the North Bergen police officers who responded to the scene was injured while rendering aid to one of the drivers. After receiving aid at the scene, the officer was transported by EMS to Palisades Medical Center where he received additional medical treatment.

Prosecutor Suarez credited the Regional Collision Investigation Unit and the North Bergen Police Department with the investigation.

The above charges are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty. R.P.C.3.6(b)(6).