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N.J. river plunge death: Officer's family to file suit

The Associated Press

JERSEY CITY, N.J.- The family of a Jersey City police officer killed when his emergency services truck drove off an open drawbridge is filing notice it will sue the state. A similar move was taken by the other officer killed in the Christmas night accident.

Relatives of Shawn Carson plan to announce Thursday in Hackensack that they have filed a notice of claim against the state, the first step in suing a public entity, according to a statement released by the family's attorney Monday.

Carson's mother and sister also will speak publicly Thursday about the accident for the first time, the statement said.

A lawyer for Carson's family, Thomas S. Howard, declined on Monday to say how much the family would seek in its lawsuit.

Relatives of Officer Robert Nguyen filed a similar notice in January, alleging the state Department of Transportation failed to operate the bridge with functioning warning devices and failed to inform the officers the bridge was going to open.

Carson, 40, and Nguyen, 30, were in a police emergency services truck that plunged 45 feet from the Routes 1 & 9 Bridge into the frigid Hackensack River in fog and rain.

The officers had crossed the bridge from Jersey City to Kearny to help other officers place warning cones and flares because the bridge's safety bar and bell meant to warn motorists when it is raised was broken.

Before the two officers drove back across the bridge to Jersey City, its operator raised the middle span to allow a tug boat to pass under. The two officers then drove off the open end of the bridge and into the water.

Both the Jersey City police and the state have issued separate reports on their investigations into the accident. The police report put the blame for the deaths on the Transportation Department. State officials cleared the bridge operators of wrongdoing and raised questions about what police officers knew and did on the bridge.

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