New Jersey

NYPD Probes Staten Island Wrong-Way Crash That Killed 2, Including Linden Cop

The NYPD is investigating a wrong-way crash on Staten Island that left two dead early Friday morning after three New Jersey police officers and a friend got on the road after leaving a strip club.

One Linden police officer and his friend were killed when the car they were riding in hit a tractor-trailer while headed the wrong way on an expressway, police say. The driver of the car and another passenger are in critical condition. The driver of the trailer suffered minor injuries.

Their car was headed north in the southbound lanes of the West Shore Expressway when the vehicle slammed into the big rig near Arthur Kill Road just before 5 a.m., police say.

Officer Frank Viggiano, 28, a five-year veteran of the force who was sitting in the back passenger's seat, and Joe Rodriguez, a 27-year-old civilian, sitting in the front passenger's seat, were both pronounced dead following the crash.

Two other Linden police officers, Pedro Abad, a 6-year veteran who was driving the car and Patrik Kudlac, 23, a two-year veteran of the Linden police who was sitting in the rear passenger's seat, were taken to the hospital and remain in critical condition following surgery for multiple injuries.

"The officers are fighting for lives," said Capt. James Sarnicki, a spokesman for the Linden Police Department.

The men were at the Curves strip club on Arthur Kill Road before the crash, NYPD Deputy Chief Kim Royster said. She said investigators were reviewing surveillance tapes from the club to see if the driver had been drinking.

On his Instagram account, Abad posted a picture of a sushi dinner near Central Park around 10 p.m. Around midnight, he posted a picture of three full shot glasses.

"The three of us are decent people," the caption read. "There's a decent woman out there for each of here's to finding that which we all hope for."

The club is less than a mile drive from the expressway, with access points for both the north- and southbound lanes.

Sarnicki, said a chaplain and grief counselors were at the city's police precincts to console other officers.

"It's a tragedy," he said.

The families of the injured officers held vigil at their bedsides.

"He was a sweet loving child and I hope he makes it through," said Iris Abad, who was at Richmond University Medical Center to visit Abad. "We love him...I saw the accident this morning and did not know he was in the accident."

Flags outside Linden City Hall were lowered to half staff Friday morning in honor of the officer who was killed.

The crash shut down southbound lanes of the highway for hours Friday morning and caused heavy delays on the northbound side.

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