A Vineland man goes on trial today in a 2014 crash that killed a Linwood teen and injured three others.
Nicholas Garreffi, now 42, had alprazolam (the generic form of Xanax) in his system when he caused the crash that killed 14-year-old Aisling Cooke, according to the charges, which include vehicular homicide and three counts of assault by auto.
But it was not reckless disregard for his actions that caused the “horrific” crash, defense attorney Lou Barbone said.
It was distraction and human error.
Cooke, who was getting ready to start her freshman year at Mainland Regional High School, was a passenger in a car with four teammates on their way to a charity soccer tournament at St. Augustine’s Prep in Richland on Aug. 30, 2014.
Garreffi crossed the center line on Route 40, striking a truck and then the car driven by Cooke’s 18-year-old teammate.
Cooke, the driver and two others with them were hospitalized. Cooke died four days later.
The first time James Hollander saw Garreffi’s truck, “it was coming right at me.”
Hollander was heading home from the midnight shift at Harrah’s Atlantic City.
Garreffi was heading east, but in the westbound lane, said Hollander, who testified that he swerved out of the way.
He looked in his rearview mirror to see the truck’s sideview mirror hit a box truck. Then he saw Garreffi hit a black car head-on.
Hollander ran to thar car, where four girls had gotten out.
“They were screaming that their friend was still in the car,” he said.
Hollander saw Cooke severely injured and convulsing. He held her hand.