A previously deported immigrant in western New York was charged with driving drunk with in car crash that left a pastor and his 14-year-old daughter severely injured.
WHAM and WHEC report that the immigrant, 29-year-old Efrain Lopez-Contreras, was previously deported from the U.S. and had re-entered illegally. He is currently being held at Monroe County Jail.
Police suspect Contreras was drunk at the time of the crash, which took place on Christmas Eve. Contreras reportedly veered his car into the SUV of pastor Tony Bartolucci, who was driving in the southbound lane of the road.
WHEC reports that Bartolucci and his daughter were saved when neighbors who had seen what happened rushed to help them.
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"First, we saw a man in there," said neighbor Vitaliy Basisti. "And we had to go to the driver side, pulled him out by his legs. And then there was a girl in the passenger side. And then we tried to pull her out; she was trapped. Her seatbelt was on so I asked for a knife, cut it open. We had to rip the door open and get her out of there as fast as we could."
Al Bartolucci, Tony's father, said on Dec. 25: "You read in the paper all the time about this but until it hits you. All we did was cry last night."
Witnesses also told WHEC they saw Contreras fleeing the scene after the crash. The Democrat & Chronicle reports that deputies eventually discovered him hiding in a ditch.
WHAM reports that Congressional candidate and Gates Town supervisor Mark Assini was outraged at the idea that Contreras had been deported, but had somehow managed to get back into western New York and obtain housing, employment and a vehicle.
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Assini said, "There's no doubt that, right now we have porous borders. Our federal government is inept in protecting us from people invading our country." He added: "Until those borders are protected, these types of tragedies are going to continue to occur and they need to stop. We have to identify how this is happening. We can't continue to allow dangerous criminals to continue to come back into the United States."
The Bartolucci family, while they are concerned for Tony and his daughter, who remain in the hospital in guarded condition, has not expressed anger at Contreras for what he did. When asked if he was mad at Contreras, Al said, "No. We love him because Jesus told us to love everyone."