From the New York Daily News:
A New Jersey woman who worked multiple jobs to support herself died Monday while snatching a few minutes of sleep in her car.
Maria Fernandes, 32, succumbed to a deadly combination of carbon monoxide and fumes from an overturned gas container that she kept in her 2001 Kia Sportage, cops say.
The woman worked shifts at Dunkin’ Donuts shops in Harrison, Newark and Linden.
“She used to work like three shifts every day,” Parth Patel, who worked with Fernandes at Newark Penn Station, told NJ.com. “Sometimes she wouldn’t sleep for five days.”
One of her managers, Sophia Paches, said that Fernandes had been an excellent employee during her four years at the Linden store. The woman would sometimes finish an overnight shift at 6 a.m., sleep in her car for a few hours, and then move on to her next shift.
Despite the grueling schedule, Monday was the first time Fernandes missed a day of work.
The woman had pulled into a Wawa parking lot on Route 1 & 9 in Elizabeth at about 8:30 a.m. She apparently left the car running, cops said. She was found dead about eight hours later.
A Hazmat team had to monitor the fumes for four hours before it became safe enough for rescuers to enter the Kia.
“This sounds like someone who tried desperately to work and make ends meet, and met with a tragic accident,” Elizabeth police Lt. Daniel Saulnier said.
Former boyfriend Richard Culhane said Fernandes was born in Massachusetts, but returned to her parents’ native Portugal when she was about 9 years old. She moved back to the U.S. some 14 years ago, taking classes at a Harrison school and bunking with a family friend.
“I told (her) she could get a better job, but she said she didn’t want to work in an office,” Culhane said.
Friends and co-workers remembered Fernandes as a “sweet” and “hardworking” person who was always ready to lend a hand to people and animals in need.
One coworker remembered how Fernandes would save food scaps to feed to the birds after work.
She also idolized Michael Jackson, singing his songs and attempting his dance moves during her shifts. She told friends she planned to take the entire day off Aug. 29 to celebrate the pop star’s birthday.
An exact cause of death has not yet been released.
“She was just a nice human being,” Patel said. “She was everywhere, she used to do everything. And the good thing was, she never called out.”