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UPDATED: Charges Upgraded to Vehicular Homicide After Juvenile Dies in Ocean County Car Crash

By rlsmetro on
Little Egg Harbor

Ocean County reported that on February 9, Mr. Michael Pillarella, 26, of Manahawkin, was charged with Aggravated Manslaughter ) and Vehicular Homicide in connection to a motor vehicle crash that occurred in Little Egg Harbor Township during the evening hours of January 30. 

In the incident, police said at approximately 9:45 p.m., officers from the Little Egg Harbor Township Police Department responded to the area of Radio Road and Baltusrol Court for a report of a two-vehicle crash with serious injuries.

Police say an investigation by the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office Vehicular Homicide Unit and Little Egg Harbor Police Department revealed that a 2017 Hyundai Elantra, operated by Pillarella, was traveling northbound on Radio Road when he failed to negotiate a curve in the roadway, crossed over the centerline, and struck an oncoming 2006 Toyota XB traveling southbound on Radio Road.

According to police,  the Toyota XB was operated by a juvenile, and there was also a juvenile passenger in the vehicle.  As a result of the crash, both juveniles sustained serious injuries and were subsequently airlifted to Jersey Shore University Medical Center in Neptune.

Police say Pillarella was airlifted to AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center Trauma Center in Atlantic City to treat his injuries from the crash.  A search warrant was obtained for a draw of Pillarella’s blood, and laboratory results remain pending.  Pillarella was treated and released from the hospital and initially issued motor vehicle summonses for Reckless Driving and Failure to Maintain Lane. 

An investigation by the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office Vehicular Homicide Unit and Little Egg Harbor Police Department resulted in filing additional charges against Pillarella. He was then taken into custody. 

Officials said on Tuesday, February 9th, the juvenile passenger in the Toyota XB succumbed to the injuries she sustained due to the crash, and she was pronounced deceased at Jersey Shore University Medical Center.  

“As a consequence of this juvenile succumbing to her injuries from the January 30th crash, the charges against Pillarella have been upgraded to Aggravated Manslaughter and Vehicular Homicide. Additionally, further investigation has revealed that Pillarella was operating his motor vehicle at an excessive rate of speed, approximately 74 miles per hour at the time of the crash. Pillarella has also been charged with Speeding. The juvenile driver remains listed in critical condition, and the charges of Aggravated Assault and Assault by Auto with regard to that victim remain in force and effect,” Prosecutor Billhimer stated.

“This is every parent’s worst nightmare.  Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of both of these young women.  The driver should have been celebrating her birthday last weekend, instead, she was fighting for her life in the hospital.  The passenger that passed away this evening should have been celebrating her birthday this upcoming weekend …this is such an unspeakable tragedy,” Prosecutor Billhimer concluded.