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Local Man Helps Elderly Driver After a Tree Falls on Her Fiat

Updated on August 10, 2020

Isaias wreaked havoc on the Montgomery area Tuesday. Powerful winds toppled large trees onto power lines and roadways — causing power outages to 4,550 Montgomery residents and multiple road closures. PSE&G reported today that some residents will not have power restored until August 10. Power should be restored to most by August 7.

River Road was impassable after a large tree fell directly in front of a Fiat. A local man helped to rescue the driver at the height of the storm, about 12:15 pm on Tuesday.

A tree fell onto this car on River Road.

Police identified the driver as Joyce Venis, 72, of Manville. She was driving north on River Road during the peak of the storm in her powder-blue Fiat, which had license plates identifying her as "1-GR8-GAL." The plates were a gift from her late husband.

Stavros Economopoulos was visiting the Campbell family on River Road when he heard a tree fall. He said he and Lauri Campbell Loaiza walked to the road to investigate.

“We saw a tree down on the Fiat," he said. The tree leaned across the hood of the car, and across some live power lines. "The driver was an older woman. She was in shock, very upset, and in pain. She said she had back surgery in January."

Lauri got in the car to try to calm her down. "The wind was picking up and we were sitting ducks," he said. Economopoulos helped the driver to a nearby car to remove her from a dangerous situation until the ambulance could arrive.

Venis, in a phone call to The Montgomery News, said she sat in the car of the driver immediately behind her, driven by Dan Khoo. "Dan was wonderful," she said. "I sat in his car and he held my hand, and he gave me water."

Khoo, who works at Nassau Tennis on Route 206, also dialed 911 for Venis. "I had dialed 911 twice and it didn't go through," she said. Montgomery EMS Squad 47 arrived on the scene and took Venis to Penn Medicine Princeton Medical Center with non-life threatening injuries.

Stavros Economopoulos, a 2008 Montgomery High School graduate, helped to rescue a woman from a car on River Road.

Montgomery police Lt. Silvio Bett said first responders were very busy throughout the day of the storm. In addition to the River Road accident — a house caught fire; a tree fell on another resident's house; and the following roads in Montgomery were closed due to downed trees/wires: Hollow Rd.; Dutchtown Zion Rd; Princeton Ave in Rocky Hill; River Rd County Rt 533; Bedens Brook Rd; Stouts Rd; Service Rd; Cherry Hill Rd; and Mountainview Rd.

A House Fire During the Storm

Montgomery first responders, in addition to firefighters from Hillsborough and Rocky Hill, responded to a residence on Bloomfield Place for a structure fire on Tuesday at at 11:11 pm.

 A 9-1-1 call reported a downed utility wire on fire on the side of the residence. Fire personnel were able to bring the fire under control, with minor damage to the home. No one was injured as a result of the fire. The family was temporarily displaced, and made arrangements to stay with local family and friends. The Montgomery Township fire inspector was investigating. PSE&G was notified of the incident.   

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While roadways are being cleared so that power can be restored, a PSE&G spokesman said that 1.4 million people in New Jersey lost power during Tropical Storm Isaias. For comparison, 1.7 people in the state lost power during Hurricane Sandy.

“Heavy rain, strong winds and hazardous gusts across PSE&G’s service territory caused downed trees, branches and wires affecting, as of 4:45 PM, more than 490,000 of our 2.3 million customers,” according to PSE&G. “With tornado, flood and other weather warnings across the state, PSE&G anticipates that Isaias may be among the strongest storms to hit our service territory in recent years, and that some outages could last for an extended period.”

PSE&G said they are working as safely and quickly as possible to restore customers without power, and has nearly 2,800 workers dedicated to restoration.

PSE&G has secured outside personnel, including tree and line crews, to repair damage and respond to outages: PSE&G has requested 1,700 workers through mutual aid from Alabama, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Nova Scotia, Oklahoma, and Pennsylvania.

Route 206 at the Princeton border was closed most of the day.

Montgomery Township's Otto Kaufman Community Center, 356 Skillman Road will be open today, Aug. 5,, until 9 pm as a cooling / charging / internet connectivity center. Please remember to mask up and maintain physical distancing.

Rocky Hill Borough only had a few power outages.


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