Given the wide media coverage, it is likely that the fatal crash involving Nick Novaky and Neil Solanki is well-known. In short, a 1998 Dodge Durango was traveling Wolfe Road in Budd Lake at about 8:48pm on June 19, 2012 when the driver crossed to the opposite side of the road, drove onto the grass, and hit a tree at an estimated impact of 64 mph. All investigative professionals agreed that the speed the Durango was traveling on Wolfe Road cannot be ascertained by scientific or mathematical measures given the lack of available forensic evidence, even given the estimated speed impact with the tree.
My name is Denise D’Amico Novaky, I am the mother to Nick Novaky, 18 years old, the driver of the 1998 Dodge Durango involved in this accident. That accident killed my son as well as his passenger, 19 year old Neil Solanki.
The purpose of my letter is to inform the public, who may have heard any one of the many rumors or been exposed to the substantial amount of media attention, to know the facts of the crash, as they are known to date.
1. The Mt. Olive Police Department explained early in their investigation that the crash scene appeared very unusual due to the minimal physical evidence that would clearly substantiate why the accident occurred. As Nick’s parents, Todd and I hired a private firm headed by a NJ licensed Professional Engineer and staffed by former law enforcement investigators and certified mechanics to supplement the police investigation.
There were no tire or skid marks on the road. No eye-witnesses came forward. Apparently, individuals from nearby residences spoke of a loud engine noise at some point before the accident. The noise was described like a car traveling fast. Nick’s father, Todd Novaky, who is an engineer himself and keeps a meticulous eye on all the family cars, explained that the Durango's exhaust sounded louder than the stock exhaust, even at slower speeds.
2. Nick has never been stopped by police for excessive speed and has never been ticketed by police for excessive speed, or any other moving violation, in his full year of licensed driving.
3. Based upon mathematical calculations and analysis and professional consultation, it is possible that the Durango could have been traveling below 50 mph before leaving the appropriate lane and still have a 64 mph impact with a stationary object under the conditions of this accident.
4. Cell phone use has been cited as a contributing factor to the accident. Nick had a hands-free cell phone holster attached to the inside of his car. The hands free device was operational before the crash. I believe that this fact was omitted from all reports. One journalist told me that he did not ask about a hands-free device when he interviewed law enforcement.
5. It appears implausible that Nick would have been distracted by a ring on his hands-free device causing him to veer off the opposite side of the road and into a tree while no corrective action was taken. It seems plausible, and more likely, that an animal ran into the road or perhaps a car drifted into his lane and he swerved to avoid an accident. Our investigators found a well-used animal path along the side of Wolfe Road where the accident sequence starts. In fact, both Nick’s father and I had to avoid a fox that ran across the road in subsequent visits to the crash scene (the animal was later killed by another driver within 30 feet of the accident tree).
6. The substantial distance traveled after Nick left his lane is particularly bothersome to me. In this accident, forensic evidence ascertained that Nick steered out of his lane, across the lane for oncoming traffic, onto the opposite shoulder of the road, and onto the Belgium Block curb, a distance of more than 300 feet all without changing the direction of his travel and precisely skimming, not hitting, a telephone pole. He took no corrective action to immediately re-enter the road when the car bumped the Belgian Block curb. Again, we believe that Nick accelerated out of his lane in order to avoid some obstacle, perhaps a large and/or moving obstacle, making it unsafe to immediately re-enter the roadway from the curb or shoulder of the road.
7. Unfortunately, once the truck was beyond the curb and onto the grass, it would have been substantially difficult to steer back onto the road or decelerate because of the lack of traction.
While we want all driver’s to be safe, and hope that no parents have to go through our heartbreak and loss, it is important to us, as Nick’s sole voice and advocates at this time, to have the facts presented and to not to have his tragic death sensationalized for the purpose of teaching people not to use hand held cell phones when that factually had nothing to do with our son’s accident.
To us, Nick’s parents, all driving precautions are important so that there is the best chance of avoiding an accident. Yes, steer away from danger when possible, and brake when you have the chance. Let the antilock brakes (in most cars) do their job; you can keep control if you use small steering inputs and avoid losing tire contact with the road. Realize that driving onto the grass will not provide ample traction for you to operate the car safely. Grass, dirt and loose gravel act more like ice when trying to alter the speed and direction of a vehicle at any speed. Slow down as much as you can before you run off the road surface, if there is no choice but to run off the road. Many popular vehicles today are crash tested to assess the performance of the crash protection designed and built into every car; prefer to drive cars with an “Acceptable” rating or better. Clearly, any distractions should be avoided while driving, so use a hands-free device (speaker or headset) if you want to communicate over the phone while driving. Come home safely to your loved ones and you will have succeeded in learning a valuable life lesson.
Mt. Olive Township