A blown tire appears to be what caused the driver of a passenger van full of produce workers to veer off a South Jersey highway and head on into a tree, investigators say. Two people were killed in the crash and four others seriously injured.
New Jersey State Police tell NBC10.com that an investigation found the white Chevrolet passenger van's front driver's side tire blew out on Tuesday morning as it rolled down Route 55 near mile marker 40.
The van veered off the highway and hit the tree. The impact was so severe the front hood was concaved into a "V" and the steering wheel pushed into the rear door jam. All six passengers, employees of J. Ambrogi Foods, were trapped inside.
For the first time since the crash, state police identified the driver: 28-year-old Romulo De La Cruz of Bridgeton, N.J.
De La Cruz and fellow passenger 47-year-old Norma Santiago were died inside the mangled mess of steel, police said.
Four other passengers -- 31-year-old Carlos Gonzales, 25-year-old Regina Fortoso, 37-year-old Jose Santiago and 48-year-old Angel Rodriguez were all critically hurt. Each were flown by medical helicopter to Cooper University Hospital's Trauma Center in Camden, N.J.
All remain there in critical condition, officials said.