Life cut short after Hamilton car crash

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By Steph Mostaccio and Paul Szaniawski

Members of the Rider community silently gathered around the Alpha Epsilon Pi (AEP) fraternity house on Wednesday night, with candles in their hands and tears in their eyes. They were there for one reason: to honor their late AEP brother, Nicholas Costa.

Everyone stood in silence, solemnly remembering Costa as they listened to the Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter,” one of Costa’s favorite songs.

“It’s an emotional time,” senior Jeremy Friedman, AEP chapter president, told the crowd of mourners. “We need to grieve, but at the same time we need to stand with our heads up.”

Costa, a junior entrepreneurial business major, died last Sunday from injuries sustained in a car crash in Hamilton on Friday night.

James Vandewater IV, the car’s driver, died Saturday. According to police reports, Vandewater, 21, lost control of the vehicle at about 11:20 p.m. Minutes after turning off of Route 130, Vandewater’s white BMW slammed into a utility pole onto Route 156. A resident said the utility pole was almost snapped in half. Hamilton Township Police said speed may have been a factor.

The other passengers in the car were Rider junior Francis Ippolito, of Hillsborough, and The College of New Jersey student Craig Bauer, of Ewing, both 21. They were released from the hospital Saturday after being for treated for injuries.

Costa was trapped in the mangled car for nearly an hour as firefighters battled to get him free, officials said.

Police said the cause of Costa’s death unofficially was head trauma. An autopsy was scheduled for Wednesday, but the findings were not available at press time.

In March of 1996 The Times of Trenton reported that a botched head surgery 17 years ago left Costa “at a significantly increased risk” of complications if he suffered a blow to the head.

On Saturday, students reacted to the news of the car accident by creating a Facebook group where friends posted messages of support. Ippolito posted a heartfelt message before his friend and fraternity brother died.

“No matter where your life takes you on this next journey, I am sure you will be doing just fine,” he posted on the Web page. “I love you kid. Always remember that I am next to you always and forever!”

Costa’s friends and family remember him as an energetic individual who genuinely loved life and always had a smile on his face.

Lauren Gilbert, Costa’s cousin, described him as one of the funniest people she had ever met.

“Every room he walked in, it lit up,” Gilbert said. “He made every situation a good situation.”

According to Frank Ippolito, Francis’ father, his son often spoke about Costa.

“He really liked [Costa] a lot,” Frank said. “He really looked up to him, considered him to be a very good friend. He talked about a lot of his fraternity brothers, but Nick’s name came up quite a bit.”

Funeral services will be held from 4 to 8 p.m. today, at St. Raphael’s Roman Catholic Church in Hamilton. Contributions can be made to The Special Olympics Mercer County Chapter.

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