YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: Less than an hour and a half before a 26-year-old Washington Township man who was struck and killed by a NJ Transit train in Westwood last night, he was with a 21-year-old borough woman arrested by police on a warrant, CLIFFVIEW PILOT has learned.
Robert DeRosa was walking with Erica Occhino near her home on Lexington Avenue when Westwood police, who recognized her, picked her up on an arrest warrant out of Passaic County, Westwood Police Chief Frank Regino said this morning.
Occhino was turned over to the officers from the Passaic County Sheriff’s Department, who told CLIFFVIEW PILOT that the arrest warrant was for a drug charge.
DeRosa, meanwhile, “made a phone call and was picked up at the scene,” apparently by his mother, Regino said. “Police had no involvement with him whatsoever.”
Barely 90 minutes later, DeRosa “either stood or laid down on the tracks and did not attempt to move” before being struck by a Hoboken-bound Pascack Valley Line train in a wooded area off Kingsberry Avenue in Westwood, 500 or so feet from the Emerson border.
The property of NJ Transit, the area can be accessed from the south by walking north along the tracks, which become elevated to the north.
It’s barely three-quarters of a mile from Lexington Avenue and more than three miles from DeRosa’s home.
As CLIFFVIEW PILOT originally reported soon after the incident, the engineer sounded the horn nearly five seconds, during which a faint sound of impact was heard by neighbors.
“I’ve heard that sound before,” one of them told CLIFFVIEW PILOT. “I knew what it was.”
“There’s only one reason he’d blow the horn that long,” said another.
Several emergency crews converged on the dead-ended area of Kingsberry that leads to Memorial Field. This gave them access to the area south toward Lester Avenue, where DeRosa’s body was found.
Two passengers were aboard the train, which was due in Emerson at 11:58 p.m., NJ Transit spokesman John Durso told CLIFFVIEW PILOT less than an hour after the incident. Both were transported to buses, he said.
Westwood police were first on the scene, followed quickly by borough firefighters and Emerson police. Westwood’s Heavy Rescue squad also responded, along with a borough ambulance crew. NJ Transit detectives arrived soon after.
A medical examiner pronounced DeRosa dead at the scene.
The train finally was able to continue on at 2:25 a.m., two and a half hours after the incident.
Another man was struck in “eerily similar” circumstances in Fair Lawn this morning — the fourth time in two weeks a pedestrian has been struck by an NJ Transit train (SEE: Another train death, this time in Fair Lawn).
The total also includes an NJ Transit train strike in Matawan yesterday and in Garfield July 24.