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Emerson teen wasn’t wearing seat belt in fatal ejection crash, authorities say

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot File Photo
Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot

UPDATE: Bergen County authorities on Friday, April 24 filed a vehicular homicide complaint against a 17-year-old probationary Emerson driver responsible for a single-car crash that killed her best friend Wednesday night. READ MORE….

PREVIOUS STORY: Stephanie Morgan, 18, was in the front seat and not wearing a seat belt as the northbound 2008 Nissan Pathfinder rounded a 45-degree curve on Hasbrouck Avenue at Chestnut Street, slid sideways and hit a curb as the driver apparently tried to steer out of the skid around 8:40 p.m.

Stephanie Morgan

“The Pathfinder continued, in a yaw, traveling sideways along Hasbrouck Avenue until all directional control was lost and the SUV flipped numerous times, leaving the roadway and coming to rest on its driver’s side” in the side yard of a residence at 221 Hasbrouck Ave., Bergen County Prosecutor John L. Molinelli ( above ) said this afternoon.

Morgan, an Emerson Junior-Senior High School senior, was ejected through the sunroof, law enforcement sources told CLIFFVIEW PILOT .

Both the 17-year-old female driver — who is also a senior at the school — and Morgan’s 15-year-old brother, who was sitting in back seat, climbed out of the SUV, Molinelli said.

Morgan was rushed with severe head injuries to the trauma unit at Hackensack University Medical Center, where the prosecutor said she was pronounced dead at 1:16 a.m.

The driver and Morgan’s brother were taken to HUMC for evaluation, he said.

Although Molinelli said no charges had yet been brought late this afternoon, sources said a motor vehicle delinquency complaint was being prepared against the driver.

“It has to be done under the circumstances,” a law enforcement source told CLIFFVIEW PILOT . “It’s about deterrence.”

Unlike adult criminal charges, delinquency offenses are handled in the Family Division of Superior Court in Hackensack, during hearings closed to the public.

Molinelli thanked Emerson police and Bergen County Sheriff Michael Saudino, whose Bureau of Criminal Identification collected evidence.

Emerson Schools Supt. Brian P. Gatens this morning said information about the tragedy “was shared with all 7th through 12th graders in homeroom this morning.”

“Our in-district counseling staff, along with out-of-district counselors from other schools, are on site and ready to assist our students as necessary,” the superintendent added in a message to parents.

“Our teaching staff members are prepared to address the wide variety of emotions that may be expressed by the students,” he added. “Understanding that families differ in their approach to death and bereavement, our teachers will not initiate class wide discussions, but will respond appropriately as necessary.

” As the Emerson school community grieves this loss, all Emerson Junior-Senior High School extracurricular activities scheduled for today, including tonight’s Junior Semi-Formal, are cancelled.”

Gatens also suggested a link he said he hoped might be “helpful for guiding discussions at home”: Children and grief

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