2006_10_sichild.jpgA NJ family was driving along the Staten Island Expressway when their minivan crashed into a tree off the side of the road. Highway police were able to save three young children, ages 2, 3, and 9, but could not save their parents, as the front of the minivan was "fully enguled in flames" according to one of the police officers in the Post. Arturo Lopez-Mendez and Christina Guardado of Elizabeth, NJ were killed in the crash, which occured around 4AM yesterday, but children David, Catherine (pictured) and Elizabeth were treated at Staten Island University Hospital for cuts and burns. A driver who witnessed the accident saw police up ahead and alerted them; the police were able to break through windows to retrieve the children. Police are still investigating the cause of the crash.

The family had moved to NJ from the Bronx two years ago, but commuted to NYC for work - Guardado worked at a nonprofit and Mendez-Lopez worked in construction. Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly singled out the two officers, Robert Albano and Kevin Mullane, for their bravery, but the officers remained humble. Mullane said, "We did what any other police officer in our position would do," and Albano said, "It's heart-wrenching that those children lost their parents. I am grateful my kids are home safe, and I'm going to go home and hug them."