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Police report on fatal N.J. bridge accident points finger at state

Associated Press Writer

JERSEY CITY, N.J.- Two police officers killed when their truck plunged from an open drawbridge should have been warned by the bridge's operators that the span had been raised, according to a report issued by police Friday.

While city authorities acknowledged lapses in officers' communication, the police department's internal investigation into the Christmas night accident laid blame for the deaths with the state Department of Transportation, which operates the bridge.

Police Chief Robert Troy said the drawbridge over the Hackensack River should not have been lifted for a passing tugboat before bridge operators made sure the officers were informed.

"We believe the first obligation of the DOT and its bridge operators should be the safe opening of the bridge span regardless of the delay to maritime traffic," he said. "The DOT cannot transfer or impose this responsibility upon a police department called to an unsafe bridge to stop traffic."

Officers Shawn Carson and Robert Nguyen had crossed the bridge from Jersey City to Kearny to help other officers place warning cones and flares. The safety bar and bell used to warn motorists when the bridge is open were out of order, damaged in a truck accident.

The police department's report differs greatly with one issued by state transportation officials last month. That report cleared the bridge operators of wrongdoing and questioned whether any of the officers involved had been at fault or tested for drugs or alcohol.

Troy said toxicology tests performed on Carson, 40, and Nguyen, 30, during their autopsies revealed no evidence of impairment.

Brendan Gill, a spokesman for the transportation department, said the city's report would be reviewed but declined to comment on it because of pending litigation. Nguyen's family has said it intends to sue the state.

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