Driver charged in triple-fatal crash faces judge

PAWTUCKET, R.I. (WPRI) — A Pawtucket man facing several charges following a crash that killed three women last Thursday was arraigned in Providence District Court Monday.

The judge set bail at $25,000 for James Belanger, 21, and ordered him to turn in his driver’s license.

Belanger is accused of causing the crash that killed Fatima Rosa, 22, Emily Howell, 20, and Theresa Leary, 24, all of West Warwick.

He’s charged with three counts of duty to stop, death resulting; three counts driving to endanger, death resulting; possession of cocaine; driving while in possession of a controlled substance.

The single-car crash took place about 12:13 a.m. Thursday 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 at the time of the crash and took off from the scene.

In court Monday, prosecutors revealed what an eyewitness reported seeing minutes after the crash.

“A witness on scene told the officers that two individuals had exited the vehicle, walked off towards George Bennet Highway, and provided description. The defendant, James Belanger, was located at the intersection of George Bennet Highway and Division Street. He had blood all over his clothing and appeared to have injuries to his knees.”

Police said Howell and Leary were pronounced 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.

Police said none of the women was wearing seat belts and all of them were ejected from the vehicle during the crash. They said the one person with minor injuries in the crash had a seat belt on.

Police said DUI – death resulting charges may be filed against Belanger, pending the toxicology results.

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.

Meanwhile, a GoFundMe page has been set up to raise money for Howell’s and Leary’s funeral expenses.