(Photo courtesy of Sports Graphics)
"AN EXCEPTIONAL COXSWAIN": Rebecca Annitto, 14, died last Wednesday night following an automobile accident on Alexander Road. Rebecca was an exceptional coxswain for the Mercer Junior Rowing Club, according to her coach. Here Rebecca is shown just before last spring's Northeast Junior Regional Championships for rowing, where her boat placed second.
Stuart Student Dies In Fatal Car Crash On Alexander Road
Stuart Country Day School sophomore Rebecca Giani Annitto was killed last Wednesday in an automobile accident while on her way home from rowing practice at the Mercer Junior Rowing Club.
Rebecca, 14, is believed to have suffered some type of blunt trauma, according to West Windsor Township Police.
Five high school students were involved in the three-car accident. The driver, Katherine Thompson, 17, a senior at Stuart, only suffered minor injuries. However, the three backseat passengers, which included Rebecca, were rushed to Capital Health System's Fuld Campus.
Princeton High School students Katie Boyce and Dana Nerveson, both 16, were recovering at home on Thursday; the fourth passenger, Stuart sophomore Sarah Rich, is still in the hospital. Her condition is unknown.
Rebecca, who was a member of Stuart's class of 2008, was relatively new to the school, having attended the Princeton Regional Schools throughout her childhood. She is survived by her parents, Dr. William Annitto and Michal Saraf, as well as her three sisters, Leah, Julia, and Daniela Annitto. The family is currently observing a mourning period for their loss.
The Stuart sophomore served on the school's newspaper and counseling service club, and was a volunteer at Beth Israel Hospital.
She was very active in the rowing club, according to her coach, Sean McCourt, who said she will be missed by both her coaches and fellow rowers.
"She was a great kid who always made us laugh… I can't say enough about her," he said, adding that she was an exceptional coxswain who stood out from her peers, being put on the varsity league just as a freshman. "She was mature well beyond her years and all the girls loved her. They really gravitated toward her."
The fatal accident occurred at approximately 6:30 p.m. on September 14, according to police. Ms. Thompson was driving westbound on Alexander Road when police believe she slid on slick roadway and lost control of the 1986 Mercedes Benz, crashing into an oncoming car. The crash occurred on the "S curve" of the roadway, near Obal Garden Market.
The car was struck by a 1999 BMW, which was rear-ended by a 2002 Toyota. Both drivers, Lizzy Everett, 29, of Princeton, and John Weeren, 34, of West Windsor, suffered minor injuries and were treated and released from the University Medical Center at Princeton, said police.
"Everything is more than likely totaled," said Ptl. Thomas Tarr. He added that the drivers will not be pressing charges.
West Windsor Township Mayor Shing Fu Hsueh said that earlier this year he had asked the Township's engineering department to make recommendations on troubled traffic locations that needed to be reexamined. That portion of Alexander Road was number one on this list, he said: "We hope to realign the roadway in the near future."
He said that this was the first fatal accident to have occurred at that location on Alexander according to records, and added that his own son had a similar accident on the roadway six years ago, but was not injured seriously.
When Stuart faculty learned of the student's death last Thursday, the school psychologist was on hand to offer counseling to her classmates. A private prayer service was held for upper school students and staff that afternoon.
A funeral service for Rebecca was held on Friday at The Jewish Center of Princeton, where almost 1,000 mourners attended. The service was followed by burial at Princeton Cemetery. Both Stuart and Princeton High students were excused from classes to attend. Middle and upper school athletics at Stuart were cancelled through the weekend, according to Stuart spokeswoman Laura Novia.
Rabbi Adam Feldman, who officiated at the service, came to Stuart on Tuesday to speak with students about their classmate's death.
"Losing a student is one of the most difficult things that can happen in a school," said Upper School Headmistress Anne Soos. "We're concerned about all those touched by this loss the family, the students, the faculty, and the staff. The Stuart community … has responded with an outpouring of love and affection that has helped us all deal with this tragic loss."
Counselors will remain on hand for Stuart students who are continuing to grieve for their fellow classmate and friend.
"She's one of the most true people you'll ever meet in your life. We were blessed to have had the chance to work with her, even if it was for just a short time," said Coach McCourt.