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Auto crashes that damage cemeteries create a special set of problems


file photo Boyd Loving

Auto crashes that damage cemeteries create a special set of problems

OCTOBER 30, 2014, 5:49 PM    LAST UPDATED: THURSDAY, OCTOBER 30, 2014, 8:11 PM

Auto accidents causing property damage can certainly be irritating or worse. But when the property is a gravestone, special complications arise.

Twice this month, cars crashed into Bergen County cemeteries, striking monuments dating back many decades. Some of the stones are so old that it will be impossible to locate family. It is the responsibility of the family, not the cemetery, to maintain gravestones.

A BMW sitting in St. Joseph Cemetery in Hackensack after crashing through the fence on Oct. 9. The crash damaged several tombstones.
Guy Kostka, superintendent at Valleau Cemetery in Ridgewood, shows the damage a number of gravestones sustained during a recent car accident.

The more recent accident, in Ridgewood on Oct. 23, caused the greater damage.

A Subaru wagon driven by a 17-year-old boy fishtailed on wet pavement on East Glen Avenue and careened into the unfenced Valleau Cemetery, owned by the Old Paramus Reformed Church. The boy, who was not injured and not cited, may have hit the accelerator instead of the brake, according to the police crash investigation report.

Ten graves along a path more than 100 feet long were damaged, cemetery superintendent Guy Kostka said.

The tiny stone of Anna Pratt, who lived just 30 days in 1907, was broken. The marker of a woman who died in 1970 was flung 30 feet. Parts were sheared off the monument of Catharina Vermeulen, who was born in 1849 and died in 1915.