MIDDLE TOWNSHIP — Nioami Lazicki, 15, tweeted Tuesday night that she was walking to Little Danny’s ice cream parlor on Route 47.
At the same time, 13-year-old Ashley Dauber posted on Facebook that she was going out with Lazicki, a cousin she loved like a sister.
Their cheerful teenage online updates, however, were replaced by midnight with an outpouring of sadness, sympathy and questions about their deaths.
Police said both were hit and killed by an SUV on the side of Bayshore Road at about 9:15 p.m. The driver, 30-year-old Joshua Malmgren, of Lower Township, was allegedly drinking and driving.
Malmgren was arrested at the scene; charges include two counts of vehicular homicide. He was taken to Cape May County jail, with bail set at $50,000.
Lazicki’s younger sister, Farrahanne, 14, was also walking with the girls, but was able to get out of the way before Malmgren’s Ford Bronco ran off the road in front of the Green Creek firehouse.
Nioami Lazicki lived in Middle Township, and Dauber, of Philadelphia, was visiting. The girls were walking to the family’s house on Blueberry Lane, about a half-mile from the crash site, when the accident occurred.
On Wednesday, tearful relatives and friends visited the scene.
“She texted me at 10 after 9 and said, ‘Mom, I’ll be home in 5 minutes,’ because they have to be in every night at 9:30 p.m.,” said Lazicki’s mother, Christina Lazicki Gaston. “Then my other daughter called me at 9:18 p.m., saying they both got hit by a car. That was the worst phone call a parent could ever get, that her children are lying dead.”
Farrahanne tried to save Nioami but could not, Lazicki Gaston said.
“It was both my daughters I could have lost last night. I lost my daughter and my niece,” she said through sobs.
Family members at times doubled over, weeping, as they stared at the spot where both girls died. They laid sunflowers, pink gladiolas and a planter of large pink hibiscus a few feet from the road.
Dauber’s parents, Jennifer Przepioski-Dauber and Joseph Dauber Jr., also laid flowers and sobbed, with Przepioski-Dauber cradling a worn stuffed pink bunny. Both declined to speak to a reporter.
The families tried to piece together how the crash occurred. They walked up and down the road, looking at tire tracks and debris in the grass by the shoulder. They then sat in a circle in the grass by the side of the road as a light rain began falling.
Nioami was “a wonderful young woman. She loved everybody,” Lazicki Gaston said. “She was the glue that held everybody together.”
“She wasn’t your typical 15-year-old. She was so mature beyond her years,” said Nioami’s father, Bill Gaston.
Those type of comments were common as hundreds of grieving friends posted on Facebook and created memorial groups for the girls.
Kacie-Lee Reiss, of Wildwood, was two years younger than Lazicki at Middle Township Middle School, and said they easily became close friends.
“Her personality could just change your whole day,” Reiss said by phone. “She was one of my closest friends. I’m trying to be thankful that she was here for the time that she was.”
Bill Gaston said Nioami turned 15 in June and had just gotten into Cape May County Technical High School full time; she would have been a sophomore in the fall.
“We were so proud of her. That was her main goal she wanted to achieve,” Gaston said through tears just after the family set up a memorial of flowers on the side of the road where the girls died. “At least she had that before she left us. We were so proud of her.”
Deborah Pennington, admissions, alumni and advancement coordinator at Cape May County Technical High School, said Wednesday that “the school community is deeply saddened” by the loss of Lazicki.
“She was well-liked,” Pennington said. “This is just so heart-wrenching. We do want to express our condolences to the family.”
Pennington said that Lazicki had completed her freshman year exploratory program at the high school and was to have started her career-technical program of study when she entered 10th grade.
Pennington said that students who wish to speak to a counselor can call the school at 465-2161, ext. 683. School-based youth services and the guidance office have counselors available, she said.
Ashley, Nioami’s cousin, was close to both sisters. Lazicki Gaston had picked up the girl Monday from her home in Northeast Philadelphia, and she was supposed to spend a week with her cousins.
“They were looking forward to this for a long time,” Lazicki Gaston said.
Not much information was immediately available about Malmgren. A Facebook profile under the name “Scooby Malmgren” said that he works at the Wawa in the Villas section of the township and has several children.
Representatives at Wawa refused to comment to The Press of Atlantic City reporters Wednesday afternoon.
Property records indicate Malmgren had a home on Greenwood Avenue until last year. Other records show a person by his name was most recently living on nearby Shadeland Avenue.
Charges against Malmgren also include driving while intoxicated, reckless driving, failure to maintain a lane of travel and consumption of an alcoholic beverage by an operator of a motor vehicle.
The investigation, which is ongoing, is being conducted by the Cape May County Prosecutor’s Office Major Crimes and Crime Scene units and the Middle Township Police Department.
Staff writers Trudi Gilfillian and Richard Degener contributed to this report.
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