Audio Tapes Reveal Details After Police Discovered Christmas Night Crash

Two witnesses reported seeing man flee accident scene just as the first officer arrived, according to police communications.

A bent guardrail on Schooley's Mountain Road in the vicinity of where the crash reportedly occurred.
A bent guardrail on Schooley's Mountain Road in the vicinity of where the crash reportedly occurred.

Audio tapes of police communications following a Christmas night crash on Schooley's Mountain Road indicate two witnesses saw a man fleeing the accident scene into the woods just as the first officer arrived.

Washington Township police reported on Dec. 26 that officers discovered a crashed vehicle on Schooley’s Mountain Road around 11 p.m. and found no one in the vicinity of the car. A further investigation led authorities on a three-hour search of the nearby wooded area to find the motorist who left the car behind. 

Long Valley Patch obtained audio tapes of the initial communication between the first officers on the scene and the county dispatch center spanning a total of approximately 45 minutes.

Officer Scott Myers radioed into county dispatch after 11 p.m. and said he had just passed what looked like a single-car crash near Cataract Park on the northern end of Schooley’s Mountain Road and did not see a driver. Myers was turning around to go back to the scene and said he'd advise the dispatcher once he was out of his vehicle.

The dispatcher responded to Myers and said a caller reported seeing a black male leave the scene on foot, but could not verify what direction he went.

Once Myers arrived back at the scene of the crash, he was advised by the dispatch center that a second caller, who was traveling behind Myers when he first passed the accident, reported seeing a black male wearing camouflage clothing “run on foot” and headed into an embankment in the woods. 

The police then requested a tow truck to remove the vehicle from the scene and traced the registration back to Melvin Travis, 55, of Washington Township. Authorities then requested Hackettstown Police be notified in case Travis headed that way. 

About 30 minutes after Myers made the initial call, he requested the local K-9 unit be dispatched to the scene. He was told it was not available, and then requested the Morris County K-9 Unit.

The police report said the K-9 unit was used because of a potential crash victim, coupled with frigid temperatures made cause for concern of the driver’s safety.

Five minutes after the request was made, a conversation between dispatch and officers at the scene revealed Travis’ home was contacted—now 35 minutes after the initial call was made—and the police had “no luck.”

Travis told Patch last Friday that he did indeed leave his car behind, because he claimed it was only a blown out tire and he felt he could leave the vehicle until the next morning. Travis said he contacted his wife, who came to pick him up as he began walking toward his home.

According to the original report, Travis and the police made contact that night but not until hours later, once the K-9 search had been completed. Travis was issued summonses by mail for leaving the scene of an accident, failure to report an accident, careless driving, and failure to maintain lane.

A court date is scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 9 at the Washington Township Municipal Building. 

Tracy Lazorchak January 03, 2014 at 11:28 AM
Really, people. Have we got nothing better to do in life than pick things out of an article. The back and forth quoting details is ridiculous. Not much happens here and when something does, it's a scene from CSI. No one else was involved. No one got hurt. Thank goodness. What the press doesn't realize is that this man gas a family and there are two sides to every story. Don't make accusations and draw your own conclusions about a person's poor judgment. We don't really know what happened. Get a freaking life people. Let the judge handle it.
lv1 January 03, 2014 at 12:33 PM
@ Tracy Lazorchak, the people smeared by Mr. Travis' friends regarding their job performance have friends and careers and faamilies as well. This was a non-event until Mr. Travis' self-appointed "spokespeople" Kevin Joseph and Debbie-whatever and a few others starting showing up here in force and smearing and threatening the police and The Patch with lawsuits and conspiracies, introducing "evidence", and generally making people justifiably curious about the facts. "Defamation of character" "wasting taxpayer's resources" "calling for "legal discipline" etc. That got township committeemen and police officials publicly involved. The people they were smearing have families and jobs as well. It is a great tactic to shout accusations and then shout down the replies (as you are doing). Hopefully the Travis defenders have been backed off by the facts and it will become a non-event again. I believe they all owe apologies to the police and The Patch, people who THEY defamed.
Justin Eno January 03, 2014 at 12:44 PM
Very Interesting. you say you spoke to Travis and mentioned his name on this site read article 9 and article 12. to read more click on http://ethicnet.uta.fi/moldova/code_of_professional_ethics_for_journalists
Jason Koestenblatt (Editor) January 03, 2014 at 12:54 PM
That's a great reference point, Justin. Regarding both, Travis told me at the end of our conversation he was ok with me using his name for the article. Had he not, I wouldn't have, precisely because of Article 9 (it's been done many times over). Hopefully this clears things up for you. I honestly don't mind you or anyone else questioning my journalistic ethics or integrity as I have nothing to hide. But let's remember what this story is about and stay on topic, please.
LRT January 03, 2014 at 01:16 PM
Jason Koestenblatt and the Long Valley Police Department simply report the facts as it is their job to do so regardless of the status of the parties involved. It is often a thankless job in which they have nothing to gain. It is not their intention to defame anyone; however, it is their responsibility to report the truth however unpopular as it may be. As was stated, they have reputations, careers and families of their own and should not be falsely accused publicly with the intent of causing damage or harm to their integrity. Please choose your words carefully in this very sensitive situation as they can be very damaging.
Hookerman January 03, 2014 at 01:46 PM
As damaging as accusing the driver of DUI??? Here are a few comments from both articles that either stated or insinuated this: "If he had been drinking, it may have been the smartest thing he ever did".... "My guess is that he was drunk and left the accident".... "the smart money is on a DWi avoided"... "If you have a CDl and get a DUI you lose your CDL and your job". What about the harm to the driver's reputation and integrity by those statements? As far as the WTPD (not LVPD) goes, I'm really curious of why the reports of a black man fleeing the scene was not initially mentioned. This changes the circumstances of the incident in so many ways. Why was this 'fact' originally omitted from the story???
LRT January 03, 2014 at 02:02 PM
Hookerman, you are quoting Patch readers, not Koestenblatt's articles. Those are not his words nor the words of the police. They are comments from the public. As I stated, everyone should choose their words carefully. As for the man fleeing from the scene, the most recent article states that the audio tapes were released later.
Domino January 03, 2014 at 02:16 PM
This thread is a perfect example of what a few of our "Town Spokesmen" do best - character assassination. It doesn't matter what the facts are or turn out to be. Smear first, ask questions later. Repeat these smears over and over until they appear to be fact, regardless of the outcome. And in Lilywhiteville, NJ. , it doesn't hurt that the object of these attacks is a minority. It hasn't stopped them in the past. And some of these people are forgetting that the rest of us don't have the luxury of calling a township committee member when we get arrested and having his assault case moved out of town. And quickly swept under the rug. Those who live in glass houses....
12345678 January 03, 2014 at 02:25 PM
Seriously, this guy's so called friends and supporters are doing more harm than good.
Hookerman January 03, 2014 at 02:27 PM
"Hookerman, you are quoting Patch readers, not Koestenblatt's articles. Those are not his words nor the words of the police. They are comments from the public." Which are the same people who you stated were falsely accusing the PD. "As was stated, they (the PD) have reputations, careers and families of their own and should not be falsely accused publicly with the intent of causing damage or harm to their integrity". So publically accusing a driver of DUI is acceptable, but questioning police actions (paid for by our tax dollars) is considered a false accusation???
LRT January 03, 2014 at 02:41 PM
Hookerman...there is a major difference between questioning and accusing. It is ignorant to make accusations without factual knowledge in either circumstance. Informed citizens should "question" in a productive, intelligent, and respectful manner with the absence of judgment.
12345678 January 03, 2014 at 02:50 PM
According to the first article, it was Travis who accused the police of conducting an unnecessary search. It would have been unnecessary had he remained at the scene or called the police himself before leaving the scene. Of course readers are going to be suspicious. I doubt the judge will rule based on any comments made here.
hookherman January 03, 2014 at 04:43 PM
Hookerman is no fan of the police or the valiant things they do. Read his posts from other police related articles and you'll see his anti-police sentiments run deep. Had to throw in the "I pay your salary" remark as well. Pathetic.
Hookerman January 03, 2014 at 05:13 PM
Yes, I know.... it's perfectly acceptable to criticize the mayor and committee men, the BOE, school superintendents, teachers and their unions, and every other twp employee whose salaries our taxes pay for, BUT God forbid you ever even question the PD. Their actions and authority are absolutely beyond reproach, and to do so is considered "pathetic". Does that pretty much sum it up?
12345678 January 03, 2014 at 05:55 PM
I question (and criticize) the police all the time. This appears to be the wrong battle to pick imo. The officers had no way of knowing that Travis was home safe, since he didn't call them and they couldn't reach him. It certainly makes one wonder why.
rusty corvair January 03, 2014 at 08:47 PM
All this S**t over a car hitting a guardrail? A guardrail that has been hit many times in the past. Now we have the "Grassy Knoll"? LOL Patch and the WTPD are collaborators? LOL
Kevin Joseph January 04, 2014 at 08:25 AM
I drove past Jason when he took this photo and my stomach immediately turned. I knew something was being covered up. If those "audio recordings" are true, then Compton should be disciplined for lying & giving false statements because "story 1" and "story 2" are completely contradictory. Everything about this story STINKS!! Someone needs to contact Internal Affairs to investigate the LVPD. These "stories" only destroy this man's image more each day. Say what you want, but there's nothing comfortable about living in a town where you can not relay on the police dept. to be honest. And "LV1" be obtuse if you want. Nothing I said was a "threat" so get your vocabulary straight. People fear truth; Bottom line. The best resolution here is to completely remove this article from public view and restrict commentary. This has Completely destroyed Travis's image and reputation. If you don't have concrete details, don't publish anything. What a disgraceful "performance" by this publication.
Frequent flyer January 04, 2014 at 10:58 AM
Why would anyone feel comfortable judging this man without the whole and true story? I can't even understand why this is news. It is so incredibly sad how some people love to bring a person down. Melvin Travis has contributed many positive things to our community. Don't let this article influence your opinions. The LV Patch has proven to be just a gossip rag.
Cardigan7 January 04, 2014 at 11:11 AM
Mr. Joseph, I have just read over all the comments on both of these stories, in particular yours. Your postings attack the media and the police repeatedly words like "coverup", "lying" etc. I believe you have done your friend a disservice by throwing gasoline on this minor incident, but the more you wildly allege, and the more you turn a fender-bender into a police corruption probe, the more attention it will demand. And should demand, if your statements are true, Mr. Joseph.
johnlv January 04, 2014 at 11:40 AM
Kevin Joseph is the only one getting the accurate picture. Justice and Truth will prevail. The police know there was no accident as they saw the impeccable condition of the car when they had it towed. They know it did not hit the guard rail . The Lord kept Mr Travis safe when his tire blew out. The police also witnessed the flat tire when they had the car towed.
Johnboy Walton January 04, 2014 at 12:23 PM
I feel silly having just become aware of this great mystery here in Long Valley. Geez, We've got conspiracy, crime and cover up all right here. I think we may need to reconvene the "Warren Commission". No not really at all. What we have is a single car accident or maybe just an incident. Followed by a lot of people with a little information and away we go. Truth is no one knows what really happened that night except those involved. Why did Mr. Travis leave the scene? Was he cold and wanted to get home? Had he been drinking and was "fleeing" because of that? Was he working alone or with Castro or the Sovi..... Whoops wrong conspiracy sorry. Truth is only one person knows that answer. Truth is really only one person needs to be concerned with it. Reality is that would not be a story. Now that it is a story people need to comment, some borderline slander and some defend Mr. Travis. The man had an accident or incident with his car. Luckily he was able to and did walk away. Why did he chose to? That is the great mystery. That, in some peoples minds, will never be solved. His statement of what happened is not good enough for some. Why? Because there is no story there. As for the police and their actions that night. My first thoughts were that they over reacted. Then more "evidence" comes into light. Based on that fact that there was a man, in cammo seen fleeing the scene. As a resident I would hope they would investigate that. At that point I'm sure it may have seemed like more than just a single car accident or incident. Again only the officer on scene knows why he acted as he did at that time. Again if we just accept the police report and statements, well there is no "story". Then the "press" gets involved and now they're part of the whole conspiracy. Now 35+ or - comments later, we have us a story. This things got legs. Wow I can't wait till it goes to "trial". I'm sure then we can get the courts involved in the conspiracy. That's because no matter how the judge rules, someone will not be happy with it. That unhappiness will turn into a story and off we go. As for me I'm going to move on. I've got things to do. I'm off to see if I can find a video of this incident. Yes I'm looking for and will pay for the "Zabpruder" film of this incident. Imagine the value of that someday. i
Hookerman January 04, 2014 at 01:41 PM
The real $64,000 question to this case is whether or not Mr. Travis is a black man. If he is, then my suspicion would be with him since the testimony of the two separate witnesses reported seeing a man matching his description fleeing from the car would offer weight. If he is not, then I have to question the eyewitness reports, and whether the police didn't concoct them to justify their search. As stated, I find it questionable that the eyewitness testimony was not originally reported by the PD, BUT I also find it somewhat questionable that those who were with Mr. Travis Xmas night have not commented on this story since the eyewitness testimony was reported. Does anyone who knows Mr. Travis personally want to comment as to whether or not he is a black man? A simple yes or no to that question would clear up a lot.
Domino January 04, 2014 at 04:18 PM
@Bill Hansen (Jeff Koch) : Since you now live out of state, the real question here is why are you so obsessed with this story? What are you always in the middle of the Washington Township rumor mill that exists on the Patch? Get yourself a life! And BTW, no one, including you, thinks this is a story about a 4000 lb. car and you know it. This is about a chance to smear someone; an activity you seem to thrive on.
Hookerman January 04, 2014 at 04:31 PM
Thank you Kevin. I must say, that does change everything. Based on the apparent credibility of the eyewitness testimony (which was not reported with the first story), I hereby take back my original pronouncement and say that the WTPD were justified in their search.
WWJD January 04, 2014 at 05:06 PM
Kevin N. January 04, 2014 at 03:56 PM @ Hook - I dont necessarily agree with your hypothesis. However, to answer your question a photo of Mr. Travis appears in the following link: http://www.riveroflifeministries1.com/Pastor.html Really, Mr. Nedd? Link to a picture of Reverend Travis wive and kid? Have you no shame?
lv1 January 04, 2014 at 05:20 PM
Yes, this was unnecessary and not what Hookerman had asked for...................................Kevin N.January 04, 2014 at 03:56 PM @ Hook - I dont necessarily agree with your hypothesis. However, to answer your question a photo of Mr. Travis appears in the following link: http://www.riveroflifeministries1.com/Pastor.html
Cardigan7 January 04, 2014 at 05:26 PM
Oh, jeez. It is unfortunate that a member would link to a family picture in a situation like this. My best wishes to Mr. Travis and his family. This really isn't a big deal, sir.
WWJD January 04, 2014 at 05:39 PM
Is there a webmaster reading who can remove "Kevin N" 3:56 post with the picture link? There is NO REASON to be bringing pictures of the pastor's wife and kid into this.
mommy1 January 06, 2014 at 09:59 AM
if no one witnessed the accident how is he being charged with failure to maintain lanes?
mommy1 January 06, 2014 at 10:01 AM
no one should imply he was drunk! that is smearing his name and he could lose his job, what is wrong with you people! don't assume anything, that makes u an ASS


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