Police: Man crashed car in icy river, left girlfriend to drown


Police: Man crashed car in icy river, left girlfriend to drown

A New Jersey man has been charged in connection with his girlfriend’s death after police say he left her to drown following a crash in the Delaware River.

Jacob T. Garrett, 24, of Burlington City, is charged with leaving the scene of a fatal accident, causing a death while driving with a suspended license and endangering an injured victim, according to the Burlington County Prosecutor’s Office. He is being held in the Burlington County Jail. 

Stephanie White, 23, of Burlington City, was killed in the crash.

Burlington City police investigators said that Garrett was speeding around 1 p.m. Sunday when his vehicle struck a parked minivan and went over a river wall into the water. The front end of the car broke through the ice on the surface and the vehicle became submerged.

Bystanders told detectives that they found Garrett standing on the roof of the car, yelling, “Help my girlfriend.” Then he fled the scene on foot.

“He left his girlfriend in the water to die,” Burlington City police Capt. John Fine told NBC New York

Videos from the scene, including one obtained by NJ.com, show firefighters working to extract White from the car, a Ford Taurus. They had to go in through the rear window of the Taurus, which jutted from the icy surface of the river. 

One video, which can be found here, shows the entire rescue, including the moment when rescuers pulled White’s body from the car. 

First responders found White in the passenger seat, her seat belt still on, prosecutors said in a news release. She was taken to a hospital, where she was pronounced dead. 

A police K-9 officer tracked Garrett from the river to a nearby light rail platform, officials said. Investigators had the train he was on stopped at the next station, where he was taken into custody.

Garrett was soaking wet when he was found, NBC New York reported

White’s friends and family mourned her on social media. Her mother, Ina White, posted a video tribute someone made in her daughter’s memory. 

“Love and miss my daughter. My heart is broken,” White wrote. “Thank you for this tribute. I'll hold it dear to my heart always.”

“I love you, sis, Steph Birdy White. Words can't even explain,” another woman wrote. “You meant everything to me . You had a big heart inside and out. I miss you and you will never be forgotten.” 

GoFundMe page established by White’s aunt to help pay for her funeral expenses described the young woman as “loving, kind, soft spoken, (a) hard worker and loved by all that knew her.”

“She had so much innocence in her presence, and always smiled when she greet(ed) you,” Rosie White wrote about her niece. “Her mother can not financially afford funeral expenses for this, and any amount will help with burial costs.”

Stephanie White’s wishes were to be buried next to her grandmother in Maplewood Cemetery in Freehold, where she grew up.

The case against Garrett remains under investigation, and additional charges may be filed, prosecutors said. 

NJ.com reported that Garrett has two previous criminal convictions, including a 2016 conviction of criminal sexual contact. He also served 93 days in jail, and received two years’ probation, the year before for aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer. 

Details of those crimes were not immediately available. 

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