A 14-year-old girl is on life support and four other teenager girls are recovering after a pickup truck crossed a median and set off a chain-reaction wreck along a South Jersey roadway.
A 2008 Chevrolet Silverado driven by Nicholas Gareffi, 39, of Vineland, crossed the center line of Route 40 (Harding Highway) near Pittsburgh Avenue in Hamilton Township around 8:45 a.m. Saturday, according to police.
His truck then headed into oncoming traffic traveling westbound -- slamming into a box truck, which collided with a 2011 Volkswagon Jetta with five teenage girls inside, according to investigators.
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The Chevy ran off the roadway, struck several trees and caught fire, police said. Meanwhile the force of the wreck pushed the Jetta onto a nearby lawn.
All five of the Jetta's passengers-- athletes for Mainland Regional High School -- were heading to a charity soccer game when the crash occurred, according to school officials.
"They were on a mission," said Robert Previti, interim superintendent of Mainland Regional High School District. "A soccer tournament to go help someone else."
The Jetta’s driver Madelyn Williscroft, 18, of Linwood, suffered moderate to severe injuries. One of her passengers, 14-year-old Aisling Cooke, sustained serious injuries and was medivaced to AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center - City Division. Three other students in the car were also hurt.
Cooke remains hospitalized on life support Saturday.
Williscroft and the three other students were evaluated at AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center and released to their parents, according to Previti.
"One remains in critical condtion," Previti said. "Please keep the entire Mainland Community in your thoughts and prayers."
The box truck’s driver Darrel Jacobs, 48, of Vineland, was taken to the hospital for observation. Gareffi wasn’t hurt, according to police.
Police closed Route 40 for about two hours Saturday as they investigated.
No summonses were immediately issued and the investigation is ongoing, officers said.
Nearly 200 people -- both students and parents -- showed up at Mainland Regional High School Saturday afternoon for a prayer service after learning about the crash.
The wreck comes two years after a fatal car wreck took the lives of four Mainland football players.
In Aug. 2011, 17-year-old Casey Brenner lost control while driving an SUV and crashed into a roadway median, police said. The accident killed Brenner, 16-year-old Edgar Bozzi, 15-year-old Dean Khourty and 16-year-old Nicholas Conner.
"That scar tissue is very deep," Previti said. "It never heals, it never loses consciousness. Now we have another we're going to deal with."