Senator Jim Holzapfel and Assemblymen Greg McGuckin and Dave Wolfe of the 10th Legislative District will introduce legislation allowing courts to hold certain offenders responsible for the cost of rescue and recovery operations.
A view from a rescue helicopter of the hole a truck fell through while driving on the ice covered Toms River. (U.S. Coast Guard)
The measure was drafted after a pickup truck fell through the ice after being driven onto the frozen Toms River, reportedly to do “donuts,” prompting an emergency search and recovery effort by local emergency responders and the State Police and Coast Guard.
“The massive emergency rescue mission in Toms River resulted from intentional activity that likely violated the law,” said Holzapfel. “Taxpayers should not have to bear the burden of paying for someone else’s stupidity.”
In the Toms River incident, the driver was able to escape to safety with the help of nearby friends, but his dog was later found deceased within the submerged truck.
According to the bill, a court would be authorized to impose the expense incurred by a public entity for the rescue and recovery of a person, and the person’s pet or property if applicable, upon a person found to be in violation of certain criminal mischief and motor vehicle operation laws.
“The rescue mission in Toms River required the help of state and local police, first aid responders and local firefighters,” said Assemblyman McGuckin. “All of those people were put at risk as a result of the driver’s bad choices. In instances like this, the offender should be required to pay the full cost of the resulting emergency response.”
As stated in the bill, if a person is found guilty of criminal mischief and reckless driving, careless driving or driving or operating a vehicle in an unsafe manner, the court may assess the value of emergency services provided arising from those violations.
“We need to ensure the safety of our police and first responders who work daily to protect and serve our residents and community,” added Assemblyman Wolfe. “A bill like this may make potential offenders think twice before doing something stupid that could put other people’s lives at risk.”