Girl, 16, dies in crash; another critically injured

Car driven by E.B. teen left road, struck pole behind mall

BY BRIAN DONAHUE Staff Writer

A16-year-old Middletown girl died and another was seriously injured Saturday night after the car they were passengers in went off the road and struck a light stanchion behind the Brunswick Square Mall.

JEFF GRANIT staff A bouquet of flowers sits at the foot of a light stanchion off Summerhill Road behind the Brunswick Square Mall in East Brunswick yesterday. The location was the scene of a car accident Saturday night that resulted in the death of a 16-year-old Middletown girl. JEFF GRANIT staff A bouquet of flowers sits at the foot of a light stanchion off Summerhill Road behind the Brunswick Square Mall in East Brunswick yesterday. The location was the scene of a car accident Saturday night that resulted in the death of a 16-year-old Middletown girl. Dana Centanni, a resident of Middletown’s Port Monmouth section, was pronounced dead at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, New Brunswick, shortly after the accident, which occurred at 8:20 p.m.

Lindsay Capatasto, also 16, of the Belford section of Middletown, suffered internal injuries and was still in critical condition yesterday, according to a hospital spokeswoman.

The driver of the four-door 2003 Toyota and two other passengers were also hospitalized, but were later discharged. The driver, Jason Stein, 17, of East Brunswick, received a concussion, while passengers Megan Greene, 16, of Port Monmouth, and Nicole Spinelli, 16, of Middletown, sustained bruises, police said.

The five victims were traveling north on Summerhill Road when Stein lost control of the vehicle, according to East Brunswick police. The vehicle slid sideways, struck a curb and then hit the light stanchion at the rear of the mall parking lot.

Centanni was in the back seat of the vehicle at the time of the accident.

No charges have been filed in the accident, but police said an investigation is ongoing to determine if there would be any summonses.

Police could not comment yet on whether Stein had violated the provisions of his driver’s license. According to New Jersey law, drivers hold a provisional license during their first year of driving, and during this time they are permitted to have only one passenger at a time in their vehicle.

East Brunswick Police Lt. William Krause said the matter is being investigated in conjunction with the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office, but he did not expect any word from the assistant prosecutor in charge of the case until tomorrow or Monday. He said the issuance of motor vehicle summonses “will be determined as soon as the investigation is complete.”

A witness to the accident told Greater Media Newspapers that he was leaving the mall and was stopped at a traffic light, waiting to turn onto Summerhill Road, when he saw the victims’ vehicle traveling along Summerhill Road toward the intersection. The traffic light turned red for the Summerhill Road traffic as Stein’s vehicle approached.

“I was waiting for them to slow down,” said Derek Rogers, of East Brunswick. “I thought it was driving a little too fast [toward the red light]. Then it started to slow down where the [mall] entrance was, and I noticed they were losing control of the car. That’s when it started turning and hit into the light pole.”

Rogers, who said he was about 20 feet away from the point of impact, said glass flew from the vehicle and sprayed into his windshield. Rogers said he immediately called 911, and that he and two other witnesses tried to help the victims until police arrived, which he said was about three minutes later.

“We got the passenger door open, but they had to use equipment to get the back door open, I guess the Jaws of Life,” he said.

Rogers described it as a horrific scene, saying he was so “shaken up” that he parked his car in the lot and had a family member drive him home.

Centanni attended Middletown High School North, where counseling has been offered for students.

Interim Superintendent of Schools Karen Bilbao found out about the accident Sunday and started the process of letting the faculty of the school what to do.

An emergency faculty meeting was held Monday morning where teachers were told to send their student to crisis teams stationed in rooms throughout the school. Guidance counselors and school psychologists were available to assist the students.

“Hearing news like this is devastating,” Bilbao said. “We didn’t want teachers who were not trained for a crisis like this to talk to the kids. In some cases they can emotionally hurt the kids more.”

Centanni will be added to the Wall of Remembrance in the school, and Bilbao said that a plaque would made in her name.

Visitation was held at John Pfleger Funeral Home, located on Tindall Road in Middletown, yesterday, and funeral services were scheduled for today from the funeral home, with a funeral liturgy at St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church, Middletown. Letters of condolence may be emailed to pflegerfh@aol.com.

Police asked that any witnesses to the accident contact Patrolman Chris Soke of the East Brunswick traffic section at (732) 390-6969.

Staff writer Jamie Romm contributed to this story