UPDATE: A 22-year-old Bergen County Parks Department driver from Emerson who authorities said was high when he hit 10 vehicles with a county truck while trying to flee a crash in an underground Ridgewood parking garage told police that he panicked.
ORIGINAL STORY: A 22-year-old Bergen County Parks Department driver from Emerson severely damaged an underground Ridgewood parking garage, hit several cars in it and then more on the street in a failed attempt to flee, police said Wednesday night.
Daniel Brancato had entered a pre-Trial Intervention Program after being charged with DUI and drug possession, law enforcement sources told Daily Voice.
Multiple reports that his driving record includes six license suspensions couldn't immediately be confirmed.
Brancato crashed the county truck through the garage of the former Sealfon's department store building on East Ridgewood Avenue -- now containing a PNC bank, among other businesses -- around 2:30 p.m. Wednesday.
He kept going, with part of the garage ceiling on top of the truck, Sgt. Michael W. Lembo said.
Officers caught up to Brancato moments later in a Prospect Street parking lot behind the Town & Country Apothecary nearly four blocks away.
ALL PHOTOS by Boyd A. Loving
They arrested and charged Brancato with possessing marijuana and Xanax and being under the influence of drugs, Lembo said.
He also received summonses for DWI, leaving the scene of a crash and reckless driving, among other offenses, before being released pending court action, the sergeant said.
"Due to the low clearance, the truck became stuck while attempting to exit onto Maple Avenue," Lembo said. "The truck caused heavy damage to the ceiling of the parking garage and struck multiple vehicles that were parked in the garage."
Brancato "then fled the scene along East Ridgewood Avenue...striking a total of 10 vehicles, causing significant amounts of damage," he said.
He had a cut on his hand for which he declined medical attention, the sergeant said.
No one else was injured, he said.
Firefighters and Building Department officials were evaluating the integrity of the evacuated building.
Boyd A. Loving took the photos and contributed to this account.
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