COVENTRY, R.I. (WPRI) — A local mother is currently working with a state lawmaker in an effort to channel the grief caused by her son’s death into future change.
In the early morning hours of Feb. 13, 2017, 19-year-old Matthew O’Gara was struck by a snow plow while walking with a friend on Arnold Road in Coventry. A neighbor heard the accident and called 911.
“I woke up to the cop in my room, and he said that Matt was hit by a plow and that it didn’t look good,” Barbara O’Gara, Matthew’s mother, said. “He wasn’t breathing, and I had to get to Kent County Hospital as soon as I could.”
Matthew died just a few hours later, leaving behind his family and his future.
“He was awesome. He had such a big heart,” Barbara said. “I could really see him going places in life.”
Coventry Police searched for days for the driver responsible for Matthew’s death. Finally, police arrested and charged William Fallon with the crime. But, that wasn’t enough for Barbara, who now wants justice for her son.
“She initially sat down on the couch with me, and she pointed right up to a family portrait on the wall and said ‘my son is never coming back again’,” State Representative Bobby Nardolillo (R-Coventry) said.
Inspired by Barbara’s story, Rep. Nardolillo is now seeking stiffer penalties in fatal hit-and-run crashes. Under a bill he recently proposed in the House, the minimum sentence for an offender would increase from two years to five years in prison. The maximum fine would go up $10,000, from the current $10,000 to $20,000. The offender could also have their license suspended for up to five years, which is up from the current three-year possible suspension.
Barbara tells us even though the bill will not bring her son back, it’s a start. She now hopes harsher legislation can prevent another family in Rhode Island from dealing with the life sentence she has been dealt.
Rep. Nardolillo tells Eyewitness News he has a lot of support for the bill in the House so far. He hopes to have it passed this legislative session.