New Milford woman pleads guilty to drunken death by auto incident that killed North Bergen man


A New Milford woman pleaded guilty to a drunken death by auto incident in 2019 that killed a North Bergen man, Hudson County Prosecutor Esther Suarez announced.

Photo via Google Maps.

By John Heinis/Hudson County View

Denisse Ortega, 36, of New Milford, entered her plea before Hudson County Superior Court Vincent J. Militello during a hearing yesterday where family members of the victim, Mario Santamaria Sr., were present.

Ortega also pled guilty to motor vehicle summonses for driving while intoxicated.

The State is recommending a sentence of 10 years in New Jersey state prison subject to the No Early Release Act along with a consecutive 10 year driver’s license suspension and forfeiture of her 2018 Nissan Pathfinder.

Pursuant to the plea agreement, the remaining charges of the indictment against Ortega would be dismissed at sentencing.

Ortega had been charged with aggravated manslaughter and death by auto – DWI while within 1,000 feet of school property.

On Sunday, September 29th, 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 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 investigation by the Hudson County Regional Collision Investigation Unit and the North Bergen Police Department revealed that a 2018 Nissan Pathfinder driven by Ortega was traveling north on John F. Kennedy Boulevard at approximately 83 miles per hour in a 25 miles per hour zone when she collided with a 2012 Nissan Altima driven westbound on 76th Street by Santamaria.

The investigation also determined that Ortega failed to obey multiple traffic signals while traveling on John F. Kennedy Boulevard including the traffic signal controlling the intersection of Kennedy Boulevard and 76th Street.

An analysis of blood samples also determined she was driving while intoxicated. The collision occurred within 1,000 feet of North Bergen High School.

Santamaria, 66, of North Bergen, was transported by EMS to Jersey City Medical Center and 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. She was subsequently transferred to Hackensack University Medical Center where she was treated for non-life threatening injuries.

A North Bergen police officer who responded to the scene was injured while rendering aid to one of the drivers and was transported by EMS to Palisades Medical Center for treatment.

Sentencing in this case has been scheduled for January 6th, 2022 before Militello.

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