Driver Who Hit Wunder Wiener Sentenced For Careless Driving

Photo by Chris Lundy

BERKELEY – The man whose car slammed into Gerry LaCrosse’s popular food stand, destroyed it and nearly killed him in a June 11th accident in Bayville, was sentenced to careless driving in Municipal Court on Wednesday.

The other charges were dropped as a result of a plea bargain that LaCrosse agreed to, Municipal Court Judge James J. Gluck said.

Berkeley police originally charged Mark Poplawski, Lacey Township, with careless driving, reckless driving, failure to maintain lane, driving in an unsafe manner, operating a motor vehicle on public lands, and failure to exhibit registration, Berkeley police said.

Poplawski first told police he may have fallen asleep when the accident occurred. But he later told police he didn’t remember falling asleep and didn’t remember the accident.

Poplawski will pay a $236 fine and $33 in court costs for the careless driving charge.

“Your remedies lie in the civil courts,” Gluck told LaCrosse.

James Butler, Poplawksi’s attorney, said his client has no memory of the accident. Butler apologized for the accident.

“It was not an intentional act,” he said. “My client doesn’t remember. He can’t put on the record what occurred because he can’t exactly remember.”

That didn’t mean much to LaCrosse’s daughter Michelle Schiel, who said she remembers everything. Her father is a longtime Beachwood councilman.

Schiel called Poplawski “lucky” for having no memory of the accident.

“I remember seeing my father bloody in the ambulance,” she said. “I still feel that every single day of my life. It was a careless act that could have been avoided. I feel angry inside all the time. I see it, I feel it. It must be nice to not remember.”

Robert Rosenberg, LaCrosse’s attorney, said his client’s livelihood had been “destroyed.”

“His injuries were horrendous,” Rosenberg said.

But LaCrosse did not want Poplawski to lose his driver’s license and said he wasn’t in court for “revenge,” Rosenberg said.

“He is just a genuinely nice person,” Rosenberg said of his client.

Photo by Chris Lundy

LaCrosse was in Jersey Shore University Medical Center for months and was in and out of intensive care. He had several surgeries due to the internal bleeding he suffered when he was pinned under the stand.

Relatives established a gofundme page for LaCrosse six months ago, since the accident destroyed his livelihood. As of Wednesday afternoon, $11,764 of the $15,000 had been raised by 246 people. You can still contribute to the gofundme page at gofundme.com/gerald-lacrosse039s-huge-losshelp.

LaCrosse must undergo surgery on his right shoulder, which he cannot raise above his waist.

He hopes to rebuild his iconic business sometime next year, and will seek permission from Berkeley Township, which now owns the Beachwood Shopping Center.

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Patricia A. Miller began her career in 1984 as a reporter at the Asbury Park Press. She covered a variety of towns in Ocean County and wrote an award-winning column, "Ocean Diary," each week. She later spent seven years at Greater Media Newspapers and served as managing editor of the Edison/Metuchen Sentinel, the Woodbridge Sentinel and the Brick Township Bulletin during that time. Pat spent the last 8 years as a local Patch editor. Pat has won a number of awards during her time as a journalist, including the New Jersey Press Association, the New Jersey Society of Professional Journalists and the North Jersey Press Club.