PAWTUCKET, R.I. (WPRI) — A Pawtucket man is facing several charges following a crash that claimed the lives of three women early Thursday morning.
James Belanger, 21, of Pawtucket, is charged with causing the crash that killed 22-year-old Fatima Rosa, 20-year-old Emily Howell, and 24-year-old Theresa Leary, all of West Warwick.
The single-car crash took place at about 12:13 a.m. on Walcott Street, just north of McCoy Stadium. The vehicle struck a pole and tore into two pieces, according to police, the two halves landing 75 feet apart. Police said Belanger was speeding, but have not yet determined how fast he was going.
Police said Howell and Leary were found dead at the scene and Rosa was later pronounced dead at the hospital. Rosa’s fiancé was in the front passenger seat and survived the crash.
Fatima Rosa’s mother Deb Stevens told Eyewitness News on Friday that she was a sweet girl who loved cats and was an avid baker. Friends of Emily Howell said she was a mother of a 3-year-old boy, and was roommates with Theresa Leary.
All three women were ejected from the vehicle during the crash. Police said they were not wearing seat belts.
“The accident scene was a devastating scene,” said Pawtucket Police Maj. Tina Goncalves. “I don’t know if that would have prevented it or not, but we always tell you…because the one person that sustained very minor injuries did have a seat belt on.”
Goncalves said she had not seen a crash with this many fatalities in her 18 years on the Pawtucket Police force.
Sarah Corr was Emily Howell’s friend.
“I think we’re all numb,” she said. “I think we all just want it to be a nightmare, and wake up, and have it not be true.”
Corr was at work when she heard the news. She recalled dropping everything and leaving.
“Unfortunately, her son is going to grow up without a mother, and she loved him to death,” Corr continued.
Police said Belanger fled the scene and was found about a quarter mile away. “His clothes were torn, he was covered in blood, and he had apparent injuries to his knees,” Goncalves said. “The police officer on scene did detect an alcoholic beverage emanating from his breath. He also had bloodshot and watery eyes.”
He was transported to the hospital, where he remained as of Friday morning. Police found cocaine and marijuana on him at the hospital.
Belanger is charged with three counts of driving to endanger – death resulting, three counts of duty to stop – death resulting, possession of cocaine, and driving while in possession of a controlled substance.
Police said DUI – death resulting charges may filed against Belanger, pending the toxicology results. He is scheduled to face a judge in Providence District Court sometime on Monday.
The crash remains under investigation. Police are seeking any witnesses who may have seen the dark Nissan Altima driving around 12:30 am on Thursday morning. Witnesses should call detective Dave Silva at (401) 727-9100 ext. 760.