FAMILY OF THREE KILLED IN CRASH

A family of three was tragically killed in a three-car crash along Interstate 80 in Rockaway Township. Briana Mae Anderson, 21, her fiancé, Edward Russell Hitt, 24, and their 18-month-old daughter, Charlotte Reagan Hitt, all perished in the crash. The accident occurred at 1:40 a.m. on Saturday, July 11. The family of three were in town from Jeffersontown, KY, on their way back from visiting the neighborhood in which Anderson grew up in East Islip, NY. The family was riding in a 2004 Kia sedan, and were stopped in traffic at milepost 34.7, behind a 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee driven by K Santiago-Madera, 26, of Bronx, NY. Bhavuk Uppal, 22, of Mountain Lakes, was driving a 2014 Cadillac Escalade. He struck the Kia, which struck the Jeep, before the Cadillac ran off the right side of the roadway, overturning in the grass embankment. After the crash, the Kia caught fire, and the three family members were declared dead at the scene of the crash. Authorities later revealed that Anderson was 18 weeks' pregnant at the time of the crash, a fact which her family only discovered via news reports of her death. Santiago-Madera and his passenger in the Jeep, Brandon Green, 32, were taken to Morristown Memorial Hospital with minor injuries. 

Uppal was arrested and held in the Morris County Correctional Facility on $300,000 bail, later increased to $750,000. He has been charged with three counts of death by auto, two counts of assault by auto, causing injury while driving with a suspended license, possession of drug paraphernalia, and driving while intoxicated. Between 2012 and 2014, Uppal had committed 19 traffic violations, and had received 12 driver's license suspensions during that time. At the time of the crash, Uppal was driving on an indefinitely-suspended license.

The family of Briana Anderson has already retained an attorney to file a lawsuit against the driver believed to be responsible for the crash. While the attorney does not plan to file a lawsuit immediately, he described his intentions to protect the family's interests throughout the criminal investigation, and to ensure that evidence of Uppal's responsibility remains protected until a civil trial can move forward. The attorney will also be investigating other possible causes of the accident and deaths, including whether or not Uppal was served an excess of alcohol before driving that night, such that the bar might be responsible in part for the deaths, or if the Kia was defective in some way, leading to the vehicle becoming engulfed in flames in an accident that may otherwise have been survivable.

Retaining an attorney as soon as possible after an accident can help ensure that you will have a strong case, built over time with every piece of evidence that's available from the moment an accident occurs. For seasoned, compassionate representation for your personal injury and car accident legal needs in New Jersey, contact Smith & Doran. Our attorneys can offer a free consultation on your claims from anywhere in northern New Jersey, including Morris Plains, Stirling, Bergen County, and Hunterdon County. Call us today, at 973-292-0016.

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