NJ’s Top Stories: Year End Review for 2012
The New Year is just around the bend but before we say goodbye to 2012, here's a look at NJ101.5's top-performing news stories online for 2012. Then share your opinion for the top story by letting us know in the comment form at the bottom of the page. Happy New Year!
Hurricane Sandy barreled toward the East Coast in late October, combining with a Nor'Easter to form what's now referred to as Superstorm Sandy. The storm left New Jersey battered and broken in its wake. The state experienced massive power outages, record flooding, catastrophic property damage and gas shortages. Storm survivors were left to pick up the pieces as FEMA and volunteers across the country stepped in to help. Upon visiting the hard-hit Seaside Heights post-Sandy, Governor Chris Christie called it "our Katrina."
Widespread power outages crippled New Jersey gas stations, leaving them unable to distribute gasoline to storm survivors who were desperate to fuel generators and rescue vehicles. Long lines formed at the pumps and in some cases violence broke out. The shortage was exacerbated by delivery issues. Without power the refineries and distribution centers couldn't properly deliver supplies to the gas stations. The few delivery trucks that were operating were met with road closures and encountered traffic jams. In response to the shortage, Governor Christie implemented gas rationing for parts of the state, restricting gas purchases on a rotation basis.
In mid-October a desperate search for a missing Clayton girl took a shocking turn when her body was discovered stuffed a recycling bin in her neighborhood. Then, horrified neighbors watched as authorities removed her bike from a nearby home where two teenaged boys lived. The ensuing investigation revealed that Autumn Pasquale had been strangled to death, allegedly by two teenage boys who knew her and who wanted to steal her BMX bike for its parts.
It was a chilly morning in Mid-December in the quiet town of Newton Connecticut when a heavily armed 20-year-old gunman entered an elementary school and mercilessly opened fire on unsuspecting young children and the educators and staff members trying desperately to protect them. Twenty-eight people died, and Adam Lanza's terrible rampage only ended when he took his own life upon hearing sirens from responding authorities. The still-fresh school massacre left the whole nation asking why. The question remains to be answered, with no hint of a motive behind the nation's deadliest school shooting after the Virginia Tech tragedy in 2007. However, it's believed that the killer was a tortured and deeply troubled man who suffered from a personality disorder and may have been Autistic.
In late November, a rail bridge over the Mantua Creek failed under the weight of an 84-car freight train, derailing 7 cars and sending 4 tankers into the water. One tanker contained 32,000 pounds of highly-toxic vinyl chloride which was released into the air and water causing a HazMat crisis and general panic among the residents in Paulsboro. More than 70 people were hospitalized in connection with the spill. An investigation revealed that nearby residents had reported noises coming from the poorly-maintained bridge in the weeks prior to the derailment. It's believed that Conrail workers were at the site a day prior to the spill, possibly inspecting the bridge. After the cleanup, several residents slapped the company with a lawsuits. The rail bridge has a history, in 2010 the bridge was rebuilt following a 2009 derailment.
A Nutley, NJ mom unwittingly became the focal point of national criticism after she was wrongfully accused of taking her 5-year-old daughter into a tanning salon with her. At first, parents were horrified at the thought of little children in tanning beds, but the story took a whole new turn when images of Patricia Krentcil surfaced. Her leathery over-tanned skin shocked everyone who saw it and she was instantly dubbed "tanning mom." Krentcil inflamed critics by lashing out at the media and defending her tanning practices. Saturday Night Live took the opportunity to poke fun on late-night TV. New Jersey lawmakers rushed to ban indoor tanning for anyone under the age of 18. Before fading back into anonymity, Tanning Mom made headlines again when she revealed a new look after not tanning.
NJ's Governor Chris Christie experienced a surge in popularity this year, emerging as a nationally-recognized figure after his flirtation with a presidential run and his deft handling of state affairs post-Sandy. Christie found himself in the national spotlight when he was identified as a leading candidate for the GOP nomination in the 2012 election. While he eventually declined to pursue a presidential run, he was given the high honor of keynote speaker at the GOP National Convention where he endorsed Governor Mitt Romney. Later, when NJ emerged as ground-zero post-Sandy, Christie once-again found himself in the national spotlight, where he gained praise for his management of state affairs after the storm. Christie's expert handling of the media also contributed to his fame. Christie is relate-able and his blunt-style of speaking attracts attention, giving the press (and Saturday Night Live) all the fodder they need for clips, sound bites, quotes and news stories.
When two major highways are suddenly shuttered in the nation's most densely populated state, everyone is going to feel the effects. In early October, a dump truck struck a barrier underneath an overpass and burst into flames, killing the 49-year-old Belleville driver and forcing officials to shut down a 50-mile stretch of the New Jersey Turnpike, the state's most heavily-traveled roadway in both directions. A portion of Route 195 was closed as well. Many drivers were stuck for hours on end in non-moving traffic. Smaller local roadways were flooded with traffic as motorists struggled to find alternate routes.
In the early-morning hours of a late August night, a closed Pathmark became a grisly crime scene after a 23-year-old ex-Marine opened fire on six of his co-workers. Dressed in camouflage and armed with an AK-47 and a handgun, Terence S. Tyler fired 16 shots, killing two victims, Bryan Breen, 24, and Cristina LoBrutto, 18, before turning the gun on himself. No motive was discovered and prosecutors said that no argument took place prior to the rampage. However, menacing messages later discovered on the shooter's social media pages had people wondering if there were warning signs.
New Jersey's fascination with sharks was on full display this summer with several highly-publicized sightings spurring apprehension among beach goers even as wildlife experts insisted that there was no increased shark activity and that nothing was out of the ordinary. It started in late July when droves of feeding stingrays arrived, leading to precautionary beach closures up and down the coast. In mid-August, a photo of a kayaker bringing in a 6-foot-long shark caught off the coast of Ocean City went viral and was widely distributed on social networks. A few days later some incredible video emerged of a shark feeding frenzy just off the coast of popular tourist destination Island Beach State Park. A short while later, at that same park, another lucky videographer got footage of a Hammerhead shark as it was feeding in the waves. Several dolphin sightings further ensured that everyone's attention was planted firmly on the Jersey Shore's ocean waters. There were no attacks.