Firefighter dad, Boy Scout, American Dream seeker: Victims of ‘heroin’ crash
WAYNE — A 17-year-old high school student and his father will be laid to rest together Sunday, days after they and a Delta attendant were killed by an accused drugged driver who sped into the gas station.
The 50-year-old Jon Warbeck and his son, Luke, were at the pumps of the Delta on Route 23 about 8:45 a.m. Tuesday when Jason Vanderee, 29, of Glenside, drove his Honda Pilot over the curb, barreling through the Warbecks' 2012 Chevrolet Camaro and into, Lovedeep Fatra, 22, of Pequannock.
Warbeck would have celebrated his 51st birthday on Wednesday, according to NorthJersey.com.
Luke, a Boy Scout, was a junior at Boonton High School and had obtained his driver's license last month.
'Here for the American dream'
Fatra was working at the station in order to send money home to his family in India, according to Hassan D. Khan, who runs a nearby store. Khan said he and other attendants thought a GoFundMe page would help with Fatra's expenses.
"I just felt something needed to be done. Just like me, all these guys are immigrants from different countries and I don't know how much family he has in New Jersey," Khan said.
The employees at the Delta were moved by the violent nature of the crash after watching graphic surveillance video, which many media, including New Jersey 101.5, chose not to broadcast in its entirety.
"It was bad," Khan said.
Fatra had moved to the United States a little less than two years ago, according to his uncle. He was expected to start a new job as a truck driver in two weeks.
"Most of the Punjabi guys from India that I come across are all very loyal to their job. They come here for the American dream. They work hard every single day. He was definitely moving up," Khan said.
Dad and son inseparable
Luke and Jon Warbeck, described as inseparable in their obituaries, will be laid to rest on Sunday night at the Vander May Wayne Colonial Funeral Home.
"It was clear to anyone that knew Jon, that his true passion in life was his son Luke," Warbeck's obituary says. "The father and son duo often enjoyed riding their dirt bikes and quads, camping, and fishing together."
Luke's former Boy Scout troop will honor him with the Spirit of the Eagle award, an posthumous recognition for a youth member under the age of 21 who has lost their life in an accident or through illness. Luke was a member of the Scouts until December 2017 and his father was a Scout leader.
"You're always a part of the Boy Scout family," said Mark A. Spaldo , CEO of the Patriot Trail Council.
Boonton schools Superintendent Robert Presuto was moved by Luke's death as well.
"I am a loss for words regarding the tragic passing of our student Luke Warbeck, his father, and the attendant who senselessly lost their lives yesterday," Presuto said in an email to New Jersey 101.5. "For their family, friends and our school community, this tragedy is simply unconscionable."
Presuto said the teachers who had Luke in class all said the same thing after being told what happened.
"He was a fine young man who knew what he wanted to do after high school. Luke was a pleasure to have in class and was well-liked by his peers."
Jon Warbeck was a member of the Carlstadt Fire Department from 1993 to 2000 and the Moonachie First Aid Squad before the family moved. He also volunteered for the Pompton Falls Fire Co. 3 in Wayne.
He founded Warbeck Construction in 2013 after 30 years of working as a general contractor. His first job was at age 12 for a company that made wrought iron railings.
Relatives say Luke wanted to follow his father's footsteps.
"Luke’s dream was to someday have his own construction company like his father did and he surely would have been a great success," Luke's obituary says. "Luke was always enterprising. From mowing lawns to clearing snow, he always found a way to earn some extra money."
In lieu of flowers, the family requested donations be made to either St. Hubert’s Animal Welfare Center in Madison or St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
Driver's troubled history
Vanderee, who has a history of heroin-related offenses, was charged Tuesday night with three counts of first-degree aggravated manslaughter, three counts of first-degree death by auto while driving intoxicated within 1,000 feet of school property, three counts of second-degree death by auto, third-degree drug possession, and possession of hypodermic needles and drug paraphernalia.
News of the crash angered many people, who flooded Vanderee's Facebook page with invective. Typical comments lamented that emergency responders had revived Vanderee with Narcan, a heroin antidote, as NBC New York reported.
Vanderee was arrested in 2016 in Fairfield Township in Essex County and charged with third-degree heroin possession, which was downgraded to a less serious Municipal Court charge of failure to turn over drugs to police, according to court records.
His driving record includes a DWI offense in April 2017, which resulted in a license suspension until November of that year.
Vanderee's detention hearing is scheduled for Monday morning in Superior Court in Paterson. Prosecutors in Passaic County are seeking to keep him locked up pending trial.
New Jersey 101.5 did not know Thursday whether he had an attorney who could speak on his behalf.
Sergio Bichao contributed to this report.
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