VINELAND — Students at Vineland High School North are mourning a classmate for the second time in two weeks. Jermire Lowery died at Inspira Medical Center Vineland of injuries suffered in an automobile accident near Almond and Mill roads shortly before 8 p.m. Monday, police said.
The 14-year-old freshman was one of five juveniles in a car driven by a 17-year-old local youth who apparently lost control of a Chevrolet Malibu and struck a parked truck, according to city police. The other juveniles were treated at the medical center for non-life-threatening injuries, they said.
The 17-year-old, whom authorities will not identify, was driving on a probationary license, said Sgt. Peter D’Arrigo of the Vineland Police Department. New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission regulations forbid a person holding that license from driving with more than one passenger in the car, except if accompanied by an adult or if the other passengers are the driver’s dependents.
No charges have been filed, D’Arrigo said. The investigation into the crash, including whether those in the vehicle were wearing seat belts, is continuing, he said.
D’Arrigo deferred further comment about the accident to the Cumberland County Prosecutor’s Office. Cumberland County First Assistant Prosecutor Harold Shapiro declined comment, saying the investigation is still in its early stages.
Students at Vineland High School North were just recovering from the Oct. 30 death of 14-year-old Alexa Strittmatter.
Alexa was hit by two vehicles while crossing Main Road to get to her bus stop shortly before 7 a.m., police said. The youth died later at Inspira Medical Center Vineland.
Police said no charges have been filed against 35-year-old Hammonton resident Norberto Rodriguez-Centeno, who struck Alexa while driving north on Main Road, or 66-year-old local resident Marthenia Gaymon. Gaymon was driving south on Main Road in the second vehicle that hit Alexa, police said.
D’Arrigo, who heads the Police Department’s Traffic Safety Unit, said he was reviewing the investigation reports regarding Alexa’s accident on Tuesday in preparation for sending the findings to the Prosecutor’s Office. The Prosecutor’s Office will review those reports and likely make an announcement on whether any charges will be filed against Rodriguez-Centeno and Gaymon, he said.
Students at the Vineland High School complex on Chestnut Road on Tuesday said the atmosphere was somber. While Jermire attended Vineland High School North, which is for freshmen and sophomores, students said he has a sister at Vineland High School South, which is for juniors and seniors.
Freshman Cody Powers said Jermire had a good sense of humor.
“He was a good guy,” Powers said. “He was a good athlete.”
Powers said Jermire especially liked baseball. A baseball and baseball glove were left with a cross Tuesday at the accident scene, located on the corner of Almond Road and an access road to the Thomas Wallace Middle School.
Superintendent of Schools Mary Gruccio called Jermire’s death an “unimaginable tragedy.”
“The loss of any student is heartbreaking,” she said. “But two, in this short period of time, is unthinkable.”
Vineland High School North Principal Mario Olsen said Jermire was “our student, part of our family, and someone we want to protect and educate every day.”
“When we lose part of our family, it hurts,” he said. “It hurts a lot.”
Olsen said counselors visited every classroom to break the news of Jermire’s death. The school library will be closed today and will be used by guidance counselors and social workers to assist any student or faculty member, he said.
D’Arrigo said the Police Department works with the school district to provide safe driving information to local students. He said local authorities are talking to district officials about launching another program called Share the Keys.
Information on the Share the Keys website states the program “is an interactive orientation for parents and teens designed to reduce teen driver crash risk by increasing parental involvement.”
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