Prosecutor: Woman who caused fatal North Bergen crash faces upgraded charges


A woman who caused a fatal North Bergen crash late last year is facing upgraded charges for allegedly driving drunk, Hudson County Prosecutor Esther Suarez announced.

Denisse Ortega. Photo courtesy of the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office.

By John Heinis/Hudson County View

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 29th, 2019, Suarez said in a statement.

Denisse Ortega, 35, of New Milford, had previously been charged with aggravated manslaughter and death by auto.

That second charge has been amended to death by auto – driving while intoxicated while within 1,000 feet of school property, a fire-degree crime, authorities said. Ortega turned herself in earlier today.

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 Ortega was traveling north on JFK Boulevard when she collided with a 2012 Nissan Altima driven westbound on 76th Street by Mario Santamaria, Sr.

At the time, it was determined that Ortega failed to obey multiple traffic signals while traveling on JFK Boulevard.

Santamaria, 66, of North Bergen, was transported by EMS to Jersey City Medical Center and 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 treatment.

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