Mike Frassinelli/The Star-Ledger
on October 23, 2012 at 7:30 AM
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GREENWICH — How could he not know?
How could the driver of the black Audi on Interstate 78 not know he was was dragging someone under his car for more than a half-mile on Friday morning?
The tragedy began Friday with Rick and Robin Lazier in a morning traffic accident. Rick was dragged under a car and later pronounced dead. It ended early Monday with Robin dying from her injuries in a Pennsylvania hospital.
But the mystery of the Audi remains.
“How you don’t stop, I don’t know,” said Joe Glackin, a next-door neighbor to the Laziers on Wilbur Avenue in Phillipsburg, where they were beloved for their willingness to help neighbors with chores or babysit their children.
State Police are looking for a 2002-04 year model Audi A4 with front-end damage.
“We’re looking for the car and driver,” Sgt. Brian Polite, a State Police spokesman, said Monday. “Maybe he did know (there was a body under the car). Or maybe he can legitimately say he didn’t know. We need to find the person first.”
Unlike its frenetic eastern end that leads to New York City, I-78 in West Jersey winds past mountains with changing orange leaves and exits for towns with peaceful-sounding names such as Warren Glen and Bloomsbury.
Truck weigh stations have silos and barn-red colors, to incorporate the rustic feel of the region.
The picturesque setting was the unlikely backdrop for one of the most bizarre and horrific accidents in recent memory.
In a chain reaction of cataclysmic events, with each link getting worse, Rick Lazier at first lost control of his SUV on rain-slick I-78 East in Greenwich Township around 6:20 a.m. and struck a guard rail near Exit 4.
Then the vehicle spun and was struck by a tractor-trailer, throwing 57-year-old Rick Lazier and his 54-year-old wife, Robin, from the SUV, police said.
Then Rick Lazier was struck by the mysterious Audi and dragged for six-tenths of a mile before the car drove off, police said.
Rick Lazier was pronounced dead on I-78 on Friday. Monday, Robin Lazier died at St. Luke’s Hospital in Fountain Hill, Pa., police said.
The Laziers were on their way to Rolling Hills nursing home and rehabilitation center in Lebanon, where Robin Lazier worked as a nurse for at least seven years and was known for her compassion.
“Great with the patients,” said Mordy Shapiro, administrator at Rolling Hills. “She had a huge heart. The patients all loved her. The most caring nurse.”
The Laziers had three hulking sons, including two police officers, neighbors said.
Which came in handy when Glackin needed to move a 2,000-pound oil furnace.
Glackin, 46, said Rick Lazier worked as a boiler operator at a paper mill in Milford until it closed, and most recently was in a supervisory position for a job farther east on I-78.
He said Rick Lazier was a powerful man who kept a weight set in his basement.
When Glackin was about 12 or 13, he and the other kids in the neighborhood would wait for Rick Lazier — about 10 years older — to arrive home, so they could join him in a basketball game a few blocks away at the school on Green Street in Phillipsburg.
Unless they had a forklift, Lazier couldn’t be moved when he got near the basket.
The Lazier home on Wilbur Avenue, filled with so much joy over the years, sat empty and silent Monday.
The thin, two-story cream-colored home with the neatly manicured lawn was going to be a pleasant sight for Trick-or-Treaters one more time, with the scarecrow on the door and the Welcome signs on the sidewalk.
Glackin couldn’t picture the neighborhood without the Laziers in it.
“The best neighbors you could ask for,” he said.