Luciano After Accident: 'I Need My Family to Help Me'
Essex County Freeholder who crashed his car into tree after he allegedly became distracted by his cell phone walked home before calling police.
Essex County Freeholder Leonard Luciano, who received 40 stitches to his face after crashing into a tree early Thursday morning in Roseland, was issued a summons for using his cell phone while driving, Roseland Police officials said.
Luciano, of West Caldwell, said Monday he will plead guilty to “prohibited cell phone use,” a traffic offense carrying a $100 fine in New Jersey. The District 4 freeholder said since the accident, he has been reflecting on the dangers of operating a phone while behind the wheel.
“I’m really just happy to be alive,” Luciano said. The freeholder, who is employed by Newark Public Schools, was in the hospital for several hours while doctors treated injuries — to his left eye, lip, cheek, chin and forehead— he called "airbag burn."
Luciano said he was driving on Harrison Avenue after 2 a.m. Thursday when he received a text and reached for his cell phone. He said when he looked up he veered off the road, hit a tree and was briefly knocked unconscious.
Luciano said he had been at the weekly freeholder meeting in East Orange Wednesday night. After the meeting, he joined friends for a late dinner. Luciano would not specify where he had been that evening.
Roseland Police Chief Richard McDonough said Friday sobriety tests were not performed on Luciano. "There was no indication that the freeholder was drinking," McDonough said.
The freeholder was not issued a summons for leaving the scene of an accident, which for an accident not involving personal injury carries 2-points on a driver's license, according to the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission.
Luciano said the accident deployed his air bag and dislodged his car battery. It also knocked the phone out of his hand.
Bleeding and unable to call for help, he said he walked about a half-mile to his family’s home on Orton Road.
“The only thing I could think of is, 'I need my family to help me,'” he said. “I was three blocks from my house.”
Once home, Luciano called an off-duty West Caldwell Police officer and that officer notified the police to do a welfare check on Luciano at about 2:54 a.m., according to a West Caldwell Police official.
“West Caldwell Police responded to his house to check on his welfare because we had been informed by an off-duty officer that [Luciano] had been in an accident,” the police official said, adding, “We sent two officers to his house and one to the area of Harrison Avenue.”
Once West Caldwell police determined the crash actually occurred in Roseland, Roseland Police were notified.
Both West Caldwell and Roseland police officers interviewed Luciano in his home before he was transported to St. Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston by the West Essex First Aid Squad, Luciano said.