Nicholas Whiteley, 21, of North Kingstown — the driver of one truck involved in the accident Feb 19 at about 4 a.m. — appeared before the judge wearing a sling and neck brace. Whiteley was thrown from the vehicle and was in critical condition at Rhode Island Hospital before being downgraded and released. He is being charged with multiple felonies, including two charges of driving under the influence — death resulting.
Also appearing in court was 21-year-old Patrick Gronhagen of East Greenwich, who faces four counts of driving to endanger.
According to East Greenwich police, Whiteley was attempting to overtake Gronhagen's vehicle when his truck struck two boulders and "became airborne and then severed a telephone pole before overturning," killing Madeline "Maddie" Healey, 18, and Michael Ruggieri, 19, of North Kingstown. Members of their families were present for the arraignment Thursday.
Whiteley and Healey were both thrown from the vehicle while Ruggieri and Christopher Mortin, 19, of North Kingstown, were trapped inside. It took rescue crews more than an hour to extricate them.
According to Shippeetown Road resident Patrick Fennessey, who was one of the first people on the scene, a truck that had been driving ahead of Whiteley's truck turned around and came back to the crash site. Fennessey talked to one of the men from that truck who said they were coming from Denny’s and had been heading to a house on Tillinghast Road.
According to the NorthEast Independent, both men were released on $10,000 personal recognizance. Whiteley was also ordered to report to the East Greenwich Police Department when he was physically able. Additionally, Whiteley is not to drive nor leave the state, except for medical purposes. Gronhagen's driving privileges were also revoked, except for work-related transportation.
They are scheduled to appear in Superior Court on May 7.