PLEASANTVILLE — As medics worked to save the life of a victim of a head-on crash Thursday morning, police searched for the driver they say caused the accident.

The man had fled the scene in front of the Reliance Medical Center on North Franklin Boulevard.

A witness reported the driver ran north on the boulevard.

“He hit him head-on, the car spun around, and then he fled the scene,” said Laura Bonaker, a pediatrician from the Reliance Medical Center who helped treat the crash victim trapped in his pickup truck.

Police said they called the owner of the sport utility vehicle the suspect had been driving and the owner said the man — identified by police as Carlos A. Fermin, 26, of Pleasantville — was using the SUV without permission. Officers were able to contact Fermin and get him to return to the scene, police Capt. Rocky Melendez said.

Fermin was taken into custody and transported to AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center, City Campus, in Atlantic City, for minor head injuries, police said.

Fermin was released from the hospital late Thursday and was being processed in Atlantic County Jail as of 11 p.m. He faces criminal charges of assault by auto, leaving the scene of a crash involving serious bodily injuries and being an unlicensed driver of a vehicle involved in a serious crash. Bail was set at $20,000 cash.

While the search for Fermin was happening, emergency personnel worked to free Jose L. Matta, 53, of Pleasantville, from his pickup. Matta was trapped after the SUV Fermin was driving southbound on North Franklin swerved into oncoming traffic and hit his truck, police said.

The pickup stopped inches from the sign for the Reliance Medical Center, and ladders from the truck were leaning on top of the center’s maroon sign. Bonaker, the pediatrician from the center, was able to help resuscitate the trapped driver, whose pulse was very weak at first, she said.

Bonaker described potential injuries to Matta’s spine and the base of his skull while medics continued to attend to him. Matta, who public records show owns Gonzo, a Pleasantville-based construction company, was taken to the ICU at AtlantiCare’s city campus, where he was listed in critical condition, officials said.

Emergency response teams from Pleasantville and the Absecon Fire Department were able to extract Matta from his truck in about 20 minutes while providing treatment, which included rescue breathing and pumping his chest on the gurney as they transferred him into the ambulance.

An Atlantic County Prosecutor's Office fatal collisions unit was sent to the scene due to the seriousness of the crash.

Bonaker said the fact that Matta was trapped for more than four minutes made his situation critical.

The accident, which occurred at about 9:15 a.m., caused heavy traffic on Main Street and officers were stationed in the area to reroute traffic.

“This is a terrible, terrible intersection,” said Bonaker. She added that she intended to write letters to city officials and that many in the area have recognized it as a dangerous intersection.

“We’ve had many accidents here before — not as serious as this one,” she said.

The investigation was ongoing, and anyone with information or who may have witnessed the crash, can contact the Pleasantville Police Department at 609-641-6100. The crash was being investigated by Lt. Matthew Hartman and Patrolman Stacey Williams of the Pleasantville Police Department, along with Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office’s Fatal Collision Unit’s Sgt. Kevin Hincks.

Contact Anjalee Khemlani:

609-272-7247

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