TCNJ crash: Cops say DWI driver was trying to pass cars
A man driving under the influence was attempting to pass cars when he slammed into a vehicle carrying students from The College of New Jersey early Sunday, injuring eight people, one of whom had been acting as a designated driver for his friends and later died, police said.
David Lamar V, 22, of West Windsor, is facing a number of charges including second-degree vehicular manslaughter and seven counts of assault by auto for operating his 2018 Kia Optima while "impaired" at the time of the crash, according to criminal complaints filed against him. Authorities have not detailed the nature of his alleged impairment.
Lamar is being held in the Mercer County Jail to await a detention hearing. Prosecutors will seek to keep him locked up pending trial, the Mercer County Prosecutor's Office said Wednesday.
The seven counts of assault by auto stem from each person besides Lamar injured in the early morning crash on Pennington Road in Ewing near TCNJ's campus. The collision injured five TCNJ students, including seniors from Brick and Belmar, according to college officials.
The vehicular manslaughter charge was added Tuesday after 20-year-old Michael Sot of Clark, the driver of the other vehicle involved in the collision, died from injures sustained in the crash. Sot, a former high school baseball standout in Union County, suffered a traumatic brain injury, liver lacerations and a broken right femur in the crash, according to the criminal complaint.
Just after 2 a.m. Sunday, Lamar was driving under the influence while heading south on Pennington Road when he "attempted to pass other vehicles ahead of him," but ended up crossing the double yellow line, the complaint states.
The Kia smashed head-on into a 2007 Dodge Charger containing Sot and five passengers. A total of eight people in both vehicles were injured, some trapped in their cars.
Lamar's attorney Robin Lord could not be reached for comment Wednesday evening. She told NJ.com in an email that the crash was a "tragic accident."
“David maintains his innocence, and we are investigating the exact cause of the accident. We send our sympathies to the victims and the family of the boy who lost his life," she wrote.
The students and others injured in the crash were taken to Capital Health Regional Medical Center in Trenton and St. Mary's Hospital in Langhorne, Pennsylvania.
The college said Sot and four other students were injured in the crash were:
- Danielle DeFlores, 21, Brick, a senior studying biology.
- Matthew DeGenova, 21, Wall Township, a senior studying accounting.
- Anthony Galante, 19, North Bellmore, New York, a sophomore studying finance.
- Ryan Moore, 21, Midland Park, a senior studying marketing.
Jenna Passero, 21, of Midland Park was also injured. She told the USA TODAY NETWORK New Jersey on Tuesday that she was visiting Moore, her boyfriend, last weekend for a fraternity formal.
Passero told the Network that Moore remained in critical condition.
An update on the rest of those injured was not available Wednesday. DeFlores suffered a traumatic brain injury, liver lacerations, a dislocated left hip and a broken right femur, according to the complaint.
DeGenova was hospitalized with cuts to the face and feet and a dislocated right hip. Galante suffered a serious brain injury, a collapsed left lung and fractures to the spine, left leg and ribs. Moore remains in the hospital with a traumatic brain injury, spinal injury and a broken pelvis, all according to criminal complaints.
Another person traveling in the car with Lamar was injured and has not been publicly identified. That individual, referred to by the initials "J.F." in the complaint, suffered bladder and spinal injuries.
News of the crash and Sot's death has shaken the campus community at TCNJ.
"This news is heartbreaking,” TCNJ President Kathryn A. Foster said. “Michael was an outstanding student, and a trusted and caring friend with a bright future ahead of him. The TCNJ community is keeping his family, friends, and loved ones in its thoughts during this tremendously difficult time."
A GoFundMe page set up following the crash said Sot was "being a responsible designated driver and making sure his friends got home safe" when the collision occurred.
Sot graduated from Arthur L. Johnson Regional High School in Clark, where he was a baseball star and member of the National Honor Society.
Greg Tufaro and Kaitlyn Kanzler contributed to this story.
Andrew Goudsward: @AGoudsward; 732-897-4555; email@example.com