Injuries claim Mainland soccer player Aisling Cooke; candlelight vigil to be held tonight

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LINWOOD – Tragedy has again struck the Mainland Regional High School community, as incoming freshman Aisling Cooke died early Wednesday as a result of injuries suffered in a three-car accident Saturday morning on Route 40 in Hamilton Township.

Cooke, the daughter of Deidre and Hugh Cooke of Linwood, died at AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center City Division, where she was taken after the accident with critical injuries. She had been in a car with four teammates from the Mainland soccer team heading to St. Augustine Prep in Richland when the crash occurred.

The four other girls, including driver Maddie Williscroft, 18, were all treated and released from AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center City Division, according to Interim Superintendent Robert Previti. The girls are all from Linwood.

A candlelight vigil for Cooke was scheduled to be held 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 3, after The Current went to press, at the high school athletic field, according to Previti. He said loss counselors and Mainland guidance counselors would be available for students Wednesday and also Thursday, the scheduled first day of classes at Mainland and Belhaven.

Previti said school officials are putting the final details together, and that they will do whatever they can at the school to help support the students and the Cooke family.

The high school held a special assembly Tuesday morning for incoming freshmen and their parents and an afternoon assembly for upperclassmen to provide information about the accident and allow them to discuss their concerns and fears and help them through this period. A similar assembly was scheduled for 1 p.m. Wednesday at Belhaven Middle School, which four of the five girls attended last year. 

Hamilton Township police said the crash occurred when Nicholas Gareffi, 39, of Vineland, traveling east in a Chevy Silverado, crossed the center line into oncoming traffic and hit a westbound truck driven by Darrel Jacobs, 48, of Vineland. Gareffi then hit a Volkswagen Jetta driven by Williscroft. Her car spun out, coming to rest in the front yard of a nearby residence.

Gareffi’s truck then hit several trees and caught fire. He was taken to the hospital. Jacobs was uninjured.


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