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DWI Hit-Run Driver Leads Edgewater Police Chase In Flaming SUV, Gets Out Just In Time

Zaira Hernandez-Cortez
Zaira Hernandez-Cortez Photo Credit: EDGEWATER PD / EDGEWATER FD

A drunken hit-and-run driver whose smoking SUV was shooting out sparks as Edgewater police chased her before dawn Monday got out seconds before it went up in flames, authorities said.

The Mazda CX-5 driven by borough resident Zaira Hernandez-Cortez, 26, knocked a fire hydrant more than 50 feet from its base and split a utility pole near the corner of North Street and Myrtle Avenue -- downing live wires across the road – before speeding off toward Undercliff Avenue around 4 a.m., Detective Sgt. Teddy Wetklow said.

Officer Michael Colon spotted the SUV on southbound Route 5 moments later.

It was “sparking and smoking profusely,” Wetkow said.

Colon tried to stop her using his lights and siren, but Hernandez-Cortez kept going, he said.

She eventually stopped near her home on Valley Place and got out -- moments after the front of the vehicle became “fully engulfed in fire,” the sergeant said.

Hernandez-Cortez “showed obvious signs of impairment” and was taken into custody while Edgewater firefighters doused the blaze, he said.

She was taken to headquarters, where she assaulted the patrol sergeant on duty, Wetklow said.

Police charged Hernandez-Cortez with aggravated assault on a police officer, eluding, DWI, refusing to submit to a breath test, reckless driving, leaving the scene of a crash, failing to report it, driving on a marked lane, failing to signal and careless driving.

She was released to a responsible adult, under John’s Law, pending a first appearance in Central Judicial Processing Court in Hackensack.

North Street was shut down for nearly 12 hours as repairs were made, said Wetklow, who thanked borough firefighters and Fort Lee police for their assistance.

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