Star-Ledger, The (Newark, NJ)
October 28, 2001
Section: NEW JERSEY
Boy fatally crushed in Somerset parade float accident
Author: CATHY BUGMAN; STAR-LEDGER STAFF
Article Text:The 9-year-old son of a Montgomery Township teacher died yesterday after he fell off a parade float and was crushed in front of a crowd of horrified onlookers, authorities said. George Dale tumbled off the float into the gap between the front of the rolling display and the rear bumper of a pickup truck that was pulling it, Somerset County Prosecutor Wayne Forrest said. Dale and his father, eighth-grade teacher Henry Dale, both Princeton Borough residents, were among the 20 people on the float, which was sponsored by the Montgomery Teachers Education Association. "He fell through the open area, onto the roadway, and was run over by the trailer," Forrest said. The tragedy occurred at 10:14 a.m., just minutes after the parade stepped off from its gathering spot in the parking lot of Montgomery Middle School, Forrest said. The float was headed down the middle school driveway, to Burnt Hill Road, which was lined with spectators, to the high school. "It really was an accident. I don't believe that flatbed was going more than 3 miles an hour," said Montgomery School Superintendent Stuart Schnur, who was in a car in front of the float carrying the boy. "A bike could have gone faster than we were going." Stunned parade watchers saw the boy slip under the vehicle, but by the time the driver of the truck, James Ladtanzio, 45, of Corning, N.Y., was alerted, it was too late, the prosecutor said. Ladtanzio is an employee of Bond Parade Float Co., which was hired to provide the truck and trailer, Forrest said. George Dale was transported to the Medical Center at Princeton, where he was pronounced dead at 11:27 a.m., authorities said. The boy suffered severe head and chest injuries, but investigators are awaiting the results of an autopsy to determine the cause of death, Forrest said. He did not know when the results will be available. The flatbed trailer, 28 feet long, 8 feet wide and 3 feet off the ground, has a railing on each side that reaches up 3 feet high, as well as a barrier in the back to protect people from falling off, authorities said. But George was near the front of the trailer where there is a 2-foot gap between the rear bumper of the truck and the beginning of the float, Forrest said. The prosecutor's Collision Analysis Reconstruction Team was sent to the scene. No charges have been filed, but investigators are continuing their probe. Yesterday, teachers at Princeton's Johnson Park School were busy calling families of students who were in classes with the boy and his brother, Julian, who is a first-grade student at the school. Princeton School Superintendent Claire Sheff Kohn said parents were asked if they want to tell their children about the tragedy or if they would prefer school officials to announce the news. "We are also pulling psychologists and social workers from other schools so they will be on hand," Sheff Kohn said. In the Dales' neighborhood, residents were shocked to hear that the boy who was often seen skateboarding up and down John Street had died. Neighbors said he was a quiet child, the second of three boys. They said he enjoyed sports and playing video games. Yesterday's parade, the kickoff of a longtime Montgomery tradition "Spirit Day," was canceled immediately after the incident. The procession featured a marching band, five floats, a firetruck and ambulance, among other parade units, with township residents lining the middle school driveway eager to cheer on their friends and neighbors. Afterward, a carnival with food, games and community booths was to have been held. "So many teachers felt so terrible with the tragedy that we decided to close up," Schnur said. "What a horrible thing, to have one of our children hurt so horribly."
Copyright 2001 The Star-Ledger. All Rights Reserved. Used by NewsBank with Permission.
Record Number: star20013bdc61300