The Manahawkin man behind the wheel in an accident that injured two teens in Little Egg Harbor last month has his charges upgraded to Aggravated Manslaughter and Vehicular Homicide after one of the young women passed away on Tuesday at Jersey Shore University Medical Center.

Ocean County Prosecutor Bradley Billhimer said Tuesday that their ongoing investigation led them to evidence that Michael Pillarella, 26, who was initially charged with summonses for Reckless Driving followed by charges of Aggravated Assault and Assault By Auto, was driving 74-MPH when he couldn't negotiate a turn near Radio Road and Baltusrol Court and ended up striking another vehicle.

“As a consequence of this juvenile succumbing to her injuries from the January 30th crash, the charges against Pillarella have been upgraded to Aggravated Manslaughter and Vehicular Homicide. Additionally, further investigation has revealed that Pillarella was operating his motor vehicle at an excessive rate of speed, approximately 74 miles per hour at the time of the crash. Pillarella has also been charged with Speeding in violation of N.J.S.A. 39:4-98. The juvenile driver remains listed in critical condition, and the charges of Aggravated Assault and Assault by Auto with regard to that victim remain in force and effect,” Prosecutor Billhimer said in a statement.

The teen who passed away on Monday, had a birthday coming up.

“This is every parent’s worst nightmare. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of both of these young women. The driver should have been celebrating her birthday last weekend, instead she was fighting for her life in the hospital. The passenger that passed away this evening should have been celebrating her birthday this upcoming weekend…this is such an unspeakable tragedy,” Prosecutor Billhimer said.

Pillarella has remained jailed since his arrest earlier this month on the Assault charges.

The crash occurred on January 30, 2021, with police responding around 9:45 pm on a report of a two-vehicle crash with serious injuries.

An investigation was then run by the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office Vehicular Homicide Unit and Little Egg Harbor Police.

Following the crash, both teens who sustained serious injuries in the car Pillarella hit were  airlifted to Jersey Shore University Medical Center.

Pillarella was airlifted to AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center Trauma Center in Atlantic City for treatment of his injuries from the crash.

A search warrant was obtained for a draw of Pillarella’s blood and laboratory results are still pending.

Pillarella was treated and released from the hospital, charged and later jailed.


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