New Jersey

Woman Found Dead in SUV Parked Outside New Jersey Wawa Was Trying to Rest: Police

Maria Fernandes sometimes parked her SUV in public parking lots between jobs to get a few hours of sleep, investigators say

A New Jersey woman struggling to make ends meet died in a sports utility vehicle parked outside a New Jersey Wawa store.

Police said it appeared Maria Fernandes of Newark was trying to nap in her SUV parked at a Wawa convenience store parking lot on Spring Street in Elizabeth.

Lt. Daniel Saulnier tells The Star-Ledger of Newark that she sounded like someone who tried her best to earn a living. The paper reported that she had four jobs.

"This sounds like someone who tried desperately to work and make ends meet, and met with a tragic accident," Saulnier told the paper.

Elizabeth police say it appears a deadly mixture of carbon monoxide and fumes from an overturned gasoline container overcame Fernandes.

The 32-year-old was found dead inside her 2001 Kia Sportage around 4 p.m. Monday.

Police said Fernandes worked at several Dunkin Donuts stores in the area and it wasn't unusual for her to park in a public access parking lot in between jobs to get a few hours of sleep. She was scheduled to lend her SUV to a friend two hours after she parked her vehicle in the lot that afternoon, police said. 

Workers at the Wawa store became concerned when they saw Fernandes in her car and called 911. Responding EMTs were able to get into the vehicle but were immediately overpowered by some sort of chemical smell, police said.

Once they determined the woman was dead, the workers backed away and alerted firefighters and hazmat crews.

Hazmat officials later determined the smell was gasoline from a gas can that had apparently spilled in the back of the vehicle. Investigators say Fernandes apparently traveled with the can because she had run out of gas in the past while commuting between jobs. 

Fernandes has family in Portugal, and they have been notified of her death, police said.

An official cause of death is pending toxicology results, but an autopsy has determined that there's no reason to suspect foul play in Fernandes' death, police said. 

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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