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NJ Driver Sentenced In Head-On DUI Crash That Killed 3 Parents On I-95 In PA

Priscilla Cortez, 34
Priscilla Cortez, 34 Photo Credit: Bucks County District Attorney's Office

A New Jersey woman is facing 12 to 24 years behind bars for driving drunk into oncoming traffic on Interstate 95 in Pennsylvania leaving three people dead, authorities said.

Priscilla Cortez, 34, of Camden, was heading southbound on the highway when she struck a car carrying Ryan Connell, 28, Leanne Popson, 35, both of the Levittown area, and Lucas Gelatko, 36, of Yardley, near mile marker 33 around 1:40 a.m. April 1, 2020, according to the Bucks County District Attorney's Office.

All three victims in the Bensalem crash had children, authorities said.

Surveillance tapes showed Cortez had been driving 69 miles per hour when she crashed in a 55 mph zone, authorities said. 

She and had a strong odor of alcohol on her breath at the scene, and admitted to having consumed "a lot" of alcohol, police said. 

Cortez was treated at the hospital where she consented to a blood draw which found that her blood-alcohol content was 0.156 percent, authorities said. 

Subsequent testing also found that she had marijuana in her system, authorities said.

At Monday’s sentencing, Gelatko’s mother described her son as a “funny, playful person who is dead because a woman decided to drive when she had been drinking.” 

“My wife and I lost our son who was a father of three small children. They will never get that back. The hope and take here will be of the seriousness of drinking and driving and what could be the outcome when making the wrong decision," Connell's father added.

“I am devastated. I miss my daughter and only child more and more every day," Popson's father said.

On Oct. 19, Cortez pleaded guilty to three counts each of homicide by vehicle while drunken driving and homicide by vehicle, as well as three counts of drunken driving and several summary traffic offenses. 

She appeared before Common Pleas Judge C. Theodore Frisch Jr., who handed down the sentence after hearing victim impact statements from several family members, including the parents of the victims, authorities said.

The case was investigated by Pennsylvania State Police, Trevose Barracks, and prosecuted by Deputy District Attorney Robert D. James.

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