Man pleads guilty to head-on collision that claimed life of nurse in 2019

A Union City man pleaded guilty to a head-on collision on Paterson Plank Road that claimed the life of Adriana Riano, a 32-year-old nurse from North Bergen.

Jonathan Guananga, 27, faces eight years in state prison after pleading guilty to one count of second-degree death by auto and one count of fourth-degree assault by auto related to the May 5, 2019 crash, Hudson County Prosecutor Esther Suarez announced.

On the morning of collision, Jersey City police officers responded to Paterson Plank Road, just south of Congress Street, at 7:15 a.m. where they discovered two vehicles had struck head-on. Riano, a critical care nurse at Hackensack University Medical Center, had been behind the wheel of a 2008 Ford Edge with one passenger, while Ortiz-Guananga was driving a 2015 Dodge Charger at the time of the crash, authorities said.

All three people were taken to Jersey City Medical Center, where Riano died that afternoon. Ortiz-Guananga was treated for injuries related to severe leg trauma, while Riano’s passenger was treated for injuries that were not considered life-threatening, Suarez said.

Ortiz-Guananga was not immediately charged for his role in the fatal crash, but authorities eventually arrested him on June 27, 2019. At the time, he was also charged with speeding, driving while intoxicated, failure to maintain a marked traffic lane and reckless driving, Suarez said.

Ortiz-Guananga was subsequently indicted with the upgraded charge of aggravated manslaughter, but the charge will be dismissed as a result of his guilty plea when he is sentenced on Oct. 29.

Riano’s death led to heightened awareness of the dangerous stretch of Paterson Plank Road where the crash occurred. She was the fourth person killed in a six-year period on the road, which winds its way up from Hoboken into Jersey City and Union City, hugging the Palisades.

In the aftermath of the 2019 crash, a center line rumble strip was installed on the road to reduce cross-over incidents and head-on collisions, as well as warning signs and road paintings to remind drivers of the curvy roadway.

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