SOUTH BRUNSWICK – Emily Murillo loved animals, especially her two dogs and two geckos, and hoped to direct that passion into a career working with animals, after graduating from South Brunswick High School in June.
But Murillo’s dreams were cut short in a tragic car accident Friday night in Franklin.
Superintendent Scott Feder announced Murillo’s passing in a message to the South Brunswick school community.
Franklin police received a 911 call around 9:22 p.m. Friday about a vehicle that left the roadway and entered the canal near Suydam Road, authorities said.
The vehicle was located by the New Jersey State Police Aviation Unit after about an hour search, authorities said, and divers entered and found Murillo, 17, from the Kendall Park section, inside. She was transported to a local trauma center where she was pronounced dead.
While the crash remains under investigation, initial reports indicate Murillo was traveling southbound on Canal Road in a 2006 Jeep Commander when she left the roadway and entered the canal, authorities said.
Feder announced a GoFundMe page has been created to help pay for Murillo’s private funeral, which is planned for Saturday, Feb. 6.
Murillo is the second young motorist from Kendall Park who has died this month.
The father of Dylan Gleason, a 2017 South Brunswick High School graduate and Muhlenberg College student, who died Jan. 2 in a two-vehicle crash on Route 1 in West Windsor, created Murillo ‘s funeral fundraising page, just days after posting a thank-you message on the GoFundMe page created for his son’s funeral.
Kenneth Gleason on Sunday created the “The Loss of a Child: Emily Murillo Memorial Fund” page to raise $15,000 for Murillo’s funeral. By late Monday morning the page’s 459 donors had contributed more than $21,000.
Gleason said his family’s dear friends lost their beautiful 17-year-old daughter, Emily Murillo, in a tragic car accident.
“For those fortunate enough to have really known Emmy, you know how deeply we will miss her bright smile and sweet, sweet soul,” Gleason wrote on the GoFundMe page, mentioning Murillo’s love of animals.
Murillo was a lifelong resident of South Brunswick, who is survived by her sister, Kaylee, a 2017 South Brunswick High School graduate; her stepbrothers, Dominic and Vincent; her mother and stepfather, Erin and Joe Popolo, and her father, Oscar Murillo.
Murillo’s mother has worked for the South Brunswick Board of Education and her father currently works at Deans Elementary School, according to the GoFundMe page. Her stepfather is a retired firefighter and is now a fire subcode official, the page says.
“We know her family’s pain too well, and we know how much the kindness of friends, family, the community and even strangers have helped us, so we’re creating this GoFundMe page in the hope that Emmy’s wonderful family can know this comfort,” according to the page
Feder said condolence cards can be sent to Murillo’s mother and stepfather: Erin and Joseph Popolo, 56 Cambridge Road, Kendall Park, NJ 08824.
Erin Popolo was recently hired to work in the City of Summit’s finance department with a Feb. 1 start date, according to a city spokesperson.
“While many of us have not yet been formally introduced to the newest member of our City of Summit family, we are keeping Erin and her family in our thoughts and prayers,” Summit Mayor Nora Radest said in a statement. “We extend condolences to the Popolo and Murillo families and are deeply sorry for their tragic loss.”
Counseling is being offered by the South Brunswick school district.
“This has been a very difficult year for our community, with so much loss. Please
remember to reach out for help and take care of yourselves,” Feder said in his message.
A change.org petition called, “Add street lights and barriers to Canal Road in Somerset,” was created by Chelsea Koch following Murillo’s crash.
The petition says Canal Road is a dangerous, poorly lit and narrow road with many turns right next to the canal with no barrier.
“A friend of mine who was in her senior year of high school recently drove on that road at night. Her car veered off the road and landed in the canal. She did not survive this accident. Her friends and family mourn this loss because she was very bright spirited and always a joy to be around,” the petition says.
“My goal is to make sure that nobody gets hurt driving on that road again. Adding barriers will help keep cars on the road and adding lights will help improve vision. I want to make sure that nobody else has to suffer this loss that could have been easily avoided with proper road necessities,” the petition continues.
Anyone with information about the crash is asked to contact Sgt. James Raics at 732-873-5533 extension 3177 or at email@example.com.
Suzanne Russell is a breaking news reporter for MyCentralJersey.com covering crime, courts and other mayhem. To get unlimited access, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.