Hundreds of people gathered to mourn a popular New Jersey cheerleader who died in a crash after driving dozens of miles from her home with a learner’s permit Sunday night.
Authorities are trying to figure out why Saddle Brook High School junior Brooke Costanzo took her parents’ SUV without permission and drove nearly 50 miles to South Brunswick without a valid license before losing control of the vehicle and slamming into a tree.
Police said they were able to find the 16-year-old Costanzo using her cellphone signal, but they haven’t yet been able to recover the phone -- a vital piece of evidence that could determine where she was headed and why.
On Tuesday night, dozens of her classmates and fellow community members crowded around Saddle Brook High’s track and held candles while they remembered Costanzo as a beloved student, cheerleader and friend.
“It’s so surreal to think that she’s gone,” said Angelica Parisi, one friend. “She was such a bright and bubbly person. She made everyone so happy.”
She added that when she found out her friend died, “My whole entire body was in shock, I ran straight to my parents’ room and just cried.”
In another sign showing how beloved Costanzo was, friends have already contributed more than $47,000 to a GoFundMe fundraiser to help the family pay funeral expenses.
Friends said Costanzo’s death is the second loss for the family: her father died 6 1/2 years ago in a motorcycle accident.
The crash remains under investigation. Anyone with information should call the Saddle Brook Police Department at 732-329-4000.