EXETER, R.I. (WPRI) — An 18-year-old from Exeter is facing charges he drove drunk and caused a crash that claimed the life of a fellow teenager.
Rhode Island State Police confirmed Friday that 17-year-old Heidi Malstrom of Coventry died following a crash on Route 2 late Thursday night. She was a senior at Chariho High School, according to the Superintendent Barry Ricci.
“She was a special young lady, very loving and caring,” Ricci said in a statement Friday. “She was upright and honest. She planned to pursue a career in criminal justice at NE Tech. She always put others ahead of herself. She absolutely loved her truck.”
The initial investigation revealed the car was traveling southbound in the area of Yawgoo Valley Road when it left the roadway and hit a mailbox, then veered left, crossed both lanes of travel and struck a utility pole.
The four occupants of the vehicle were not wearing seatbelts, according to police. All four were rushed to Rhode Island Hospital, where Malstrom was pronounced dead.
Police said the driver – identified as Scott Gavitt – showed signs of impairment at the scene. He underwent a blood test at the hospital, the results of which are pending.
Malstrom and Gavitt had been dating for about a week, state police confirmed.
A family friend told Eyewitness News Malstrom had a “beautiful sense of humor.”
Another friend, Deanna Pina, said she left red roses at the scene Friday.
“We had just talked Monday,” she said of Malstrom. “Everyone’s just dealing with it, coping with it as much as they can.”
One passenger, 22-year-old Daniel Duffy of North Kingstown, was ejected from the vehicle and is currently listed in critical condition, according to police.
Gavitt and the third passenger, identified as 20-year-old Cameron Millar of West Kingston, suffered serious but non-life-threatening injuries.
“This is a tragic reminder of the dangers of drinking and driving and the dangers of underage drinking,” said Eric Creamer, executive director of Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
Gavitt – a hero
According to the Providence Journal, Gavitt is a volunteer firefighter in Exeter. In 2012, he was called a hero for a saving a man’s life who was in a car crash.
The Red Cross gave him an award for the rescue where he and his father pulled a man from an overturned car that was on fire.
Now, he is recovering at the hospital.
“It’s really about us as a community really trying to stand up and try to provide support and education to youth in our communities to make sure that they are making ethical decisions over the course of their lifetime,” Creamer said.
Gavitt was arraigned at Rhode Island Hospital on charges of DUI – resulting in death, driving to endanger – resulting in death, and two counts each of DUI – resulting in serious bodily injury and driving to endanger – resulting in serious bodily injury. He was held on $100,000 surety bail and is scheduled to appear in court for a pre-arraignment conference April 29.
He is facing 15 years in prison and losing his license for five years.
Not the first accident
Yards away from where the car crashed, there’es another faded memorial – a cross where a 78-year-old Pawtucket woman died in 2009.
Eyewitness News has learned her car hit a rock, flipped and she was killed.
Neighbors said there are many cases of cars flying through this stretch of road.