New York

Alleged Drugged Driver in Triple Fatal New Jersey Crash Appears in Court; Victims' Families Shed Tears

What to Know

  • The man who was allegedly high on drugs when he barreled into a gas station in NJ last Tuesday, killing three people, was in court Monday
  • Jason Vanderee, 29 and of Glenwood, had his first court appearance where prosecutors recommended no release because of nature of charges
  • Charges include aggravated manslaughter, death by auto while driving intoxicated and possession of controlled dangerous substance

The 29-year-old man who was allegedly high on drugs when he barreled into a gas station in New Jersey last Tuesday, killing three people, was in court Monday morning for his detention hearing in connection with the devastating crash.

Jason Vanderee, of Glenwood, appeared in the courtroom, where his family as well as the families of the victims were present in an emotional hearing.

Vanderee is charged with aggravated manslaughter, death by auto while driving intoxicated, possession of a controlled dangerous substance and other crimes in the devastating crash that obliterated three lives.

Prosecutors said Vanderee's urine tested positive for benzodiazepine, cocaine and opiates. They recommended no release based on the nature of the charges. The defense did not fight the recommendation out of respect for the victims’ families, Vanderee’s attorney said.

Vanderee’s attorney, John Latoracca, tells NBC 4 New York that his client has an ongoing drug addiction, to mainly heroin, that spans about 10 years, adding that Vanderee doesn't remember the crash but feels terrible about the deaths.

"He feels the weight of the deaths of these three people and regardless of what circumstances that led to it, he was driving, they died, and his level of remorse is profound," said Latoracca. 

He also said the defense team wants to find out what led up to the accident through medical reports and accident reconstruction.

"Jason feels as horrible as someone can feel for what happened here," Latoracca said. "I don't know that we should just assume that he was shooting heroin while he was driving and that's what caused this." 

"I think we need to wait to determine if it was something closer to that or if it was a medical episode," he said. 

Vanderee, who was administered Narcan at the scene, hit a guardrail the morning of Feb. 19 in Wayne and smashed into a Delta gas station on Route 23. The impact was so violent it tore the roof off a vehicle at the scene, killing a father and 17-year-old son inside — subsequently identified as Jon Warbeck, a 50-year-old construction business owner from Fair Lawn, and Luke Warbeck, a 17-year-old from Lincoln Park. Their funerals were held Sunday.

The impact also killed a 22-year-old gas station attendant who had recently moved to the U.S. from India to pursue a better life. Relatives identified him as Lovedeep Fatra, of Pequannock. The families of the victims said nothing to reporters after the tearful court hearing. 

Two other people in separate cars were also treated for various injuries.

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