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Drunk driver arraigned in crash that killed two

A Camden man accused of driving on the wrong side of the road while drunk was arraigned yesterday on charges that he caused the death of his passenger and another driver in Chesilhurst.

Erick Figueroa, 24, of North 34th Street, was pushed by sheriff's deputies into court where he sat in a wheelchair, his right leg amputated at the knee.

He is accused of causing the death of his friend, Jonathan L. Jenkins, 22, of Pine Hill, who was in the passenger seat of Figueroa's Toyota, and Stanley Ellis, 86, of Atco, whose Buick Century was struck head on.

Figueroa spoke only when Superior Court Judge Thomas A. Brown Jr. addressed bail, which the judge continued at $200,000, noting that despite Figueroa's disability, he remained a flight risk.

"These are serious charges," the judge said, adding that Figueroa was facing up to 20 years in prison in case with a high likelihood of conviction.

On Sept. 12, about 9 a.m., Figueroa was driving west in the eastbound lane on Whitehorse Pike in Chesilhurst, said assistant Camden County Prosecutor Mary Alison Albright.

A witness told police after the accident that she had seen a black Toyota traveling in the wrong lane shortly before she came upon the crash where the two vehicles were demolished at Cleveland Avenue.

When police and medics arrived, all three men were unresponsive, but alive.

Figueroa was rushed to Cooper Medical Center where he has received extensive medical treatment for his injuries, including the amputation.

Jenkins was pronounced dead the next morning. Ellis died several days later, Albright said.

Albright said tests showed Figueroa had a blood alcohol content of .09, above the .08 legal limit. There was also evidence of PCP.

When interviewed by authorities, Albright said Figueroa said he remembered driving his Toyota, but couldn't recall the accident.

Albright requested high bail, noting Figueroa's past criminal history. In December 2004, he was placed on probation for two convictions - one for assaulting a police officer and the other as an accomplice to an escape attempt.

"Given what his prior convictions are, I think he's at risk to flee," Albright said, acknowledging Figueroa's poor physical condition, but adding he could flee with assistance.