Orange PD: Passenger dies after crash while hanging out car’s sunroof; teen driver arraigned

Police identified the victim as Miguel Rodriguez III, of Willimantic, and said he was hanging out of the car’s sunroof when the driver ran a red light and collided with a pickup truck around 4:50 p.m.

Marissa Alter

Jun 26, 2023, 9:57 AM

Updated 334 days ago


A 19-year-old driver from Bridgeport is facing several charges after an alleged DUI crash in Orange that killed his friend Sunday afternoon.
Police identified the victim as Miguel Rodriguez III, of Willimantic, and said he was hanging out of the car’s sunroof when the driver ran a red light and collided with a pickup truck around 4:50 p.m.
It happened at the intersection of Route 34 and Racebrook Road. A witness told News 12 she was heading eastbound on Route 34 when she saw a white sedan behind her that was swerving and almost hit her.
“I saw a young man with his torso outside the sunroof. You could hear music blasting. You could tell they were having a good time in the car, and they were very recklessly going in and out and cutting people off to get to the front of the line of cars,” recalled Jessica Pesce. “Unfortunately, the light was red, and they tried to go through it. I don't think they were even going to be able to stop if they tried with how fast they were going.”
When the crash happened, Pesce immediately pulled over and ran to the scene. She’s a nurse and said her training took over.
“You just kind of react,” she explained. “Pretty much the whole end of the vehicle was like on the concrete at that point. It wasn't standing on wheels.”
Pesce said Miguel Rodriguez III had a massive mark on his chest and an open wound on one leg.
“A very nice young woman handed me a T-shirt. I wanted something to tourniquet the leg. I got pressure on that area and was just kind of trying to keep him awake,” she stated.
Once EMS arrived, the victim was rushed to the hospital with life-threatening injuries but didn't make it. Police said the two other passengers in the car and the driver and passenger from the truck had minor injuries; they were treated at the hospital and released.
The car's driver, Jeremie Rodriguez, was arrested on several charges including misconduct with a motor vehicle, driving under the influence, reckless driving, traffic signal violation, and allowing a rider outside of vehicle.
Police said the driver and the victim were friends and not related.
According to the police report, officers who responded to the crash smelled alcohol on Jeremie Rodriguez’s breath. “I asked Mr. Rodriguez how much he had to drink today to which he replied ‘three shots’ but was unable to state what kind of alcohol beverage he’d consumer. He also admitted to smoking marijuana earlier during the day,” the report stated.
The report also said Jeremie Rodriguez didn’t have a valid driver’s license but a learner’s permit instead. Police noted the car’s registration was suspended, and the car lacked insurance, as well. The report said Rodriguez told them he’d been at Indian Well State Park in Shelton before the crash. “During booking, Mr. Rodriguez stated that he had smoked two blunts of marijuana this morning and another at Indian Well State Park,” according to the report.
Police said a breath test done at the police department came back with a BAC of .0432, and they seized 0.9 grams of marijuana from Jeremie Rodriguez.
He was arraigned in Derby Superior Court Monday.
“This is an ongoing investigation. Additional charges may be forthcoming. Given the seriousness of the allegations and the tragic loss of one of the passengers in the car, the state's requesting bond remain as set by the police, $50,000,” said Senior Assistant State’s Attorney Kim Northrop.
“Your honor, I spoke with Jeremie at length, and he certainly understands the severity of the charges,” said Justin Chan, Jeremie Rodriguez’s public defender. “He has family in the state. A lot of his family members are present here today. He has no criminal history. I would ask that the court grant the promise to appear.”
Judge Scott Jones kept bond at $50,000, citing the seriousness of the charges and the potential for them to be upgraded.
Jeremie Rodriguez's family was emotional at his court appearance and had no comment following the hearing.
The case is back in court Aug. 1.

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