A New Jersey woman who was working multiple jobs to survive was found deceased in her SUV after she purportedly pulled over to rest on the side of the road.
Maria Fernandes, 32, reportedly parked her vehicle outside of a Wawa convenient store in Elizabeth because she wanted to take a nap between jobs, reports NBC Philadelphia.
Eight hours after she was pulled over, at around 4 p.m., Fernandes was found dead. Police have concluded that she inadvertently left the car running as she napped and breathed in a mixture of carbon monoxide and the fumes from a spilled gasoline container.
She worked two shifts at two separate Dunkin Donuts, in addition to two other jobs. Fernandes often slept in her 2001 Kia Sportage between shifts and allegedly kept a container of gasoline in her car in case she ran out of fuel, according to The Star-Ledger of Newark.
“This sounds like someone who tried desperately to work and make ends meet, and met with a tragic accident,” said Elizabeth police Lt. Daniel Saulnier.
Workers at Wawa became suspicious and called authorities after observing that Fernandes’ car had been parked in the parking lot for hours. When emergency services arrived, they found that all of the doors and windows on the woman’s SUV were shut tight. The chemical odor they smelled upon opening the door was overpowering, according to police.
Foul play was not involved in the woman’s death, according to the autopsy report. The official cause of her death is awaiting on toxicology results.
Fernandes has relatives in Portugal and authorities say they have been notified of her death.
Carl Van Horn, director of the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, says New Jersey has tens of thousands of residents working multiple jobs.
“These are folks who would like to work full-time but they can’t find the jobs,” Van Horn said. “They wind up in these circumstances in which they are exhausted. More commonly it creates just an enormous amount of stress,” he said.