What We Know: 13-Year-Old Killed in Drunken Driving Crash After Holiday Party

Prosecutors say the suspect, Gregory Goodsell, admitted to taking cocaine at a holiday party thrown by his boss, and drinking before the crash that killed Claire Zisserson, described by her mother as "a ray of sunshine"

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The town of Plymouth, Massachusetts, is reeling in the wake of an alleged OUI crash in Pembroke last month that killed a 13-year-old girl and left another girl fighting for her life.

A vigil was held for Claire Zisserson on Sunday — which would have been her 14th birthday — a week after a 31-year-old man from Marshfield allegedly slammed his truck into the Subaru carrying Zisserson, her mother Elizabeth and Claire's friend and classmate, Kendall Zemotel.

Gregory Goodsell, who faces charges including manslaughter while operating under the influence, allegedly acknowledged to police that he had been drinking and taken cocaine at a Christmas party thrown by his boss before the crash.

The tragedy has brought scrutiny on Hi-Way Safety Systems, a highway contractor that fired Goodsell after the crash and which owned the truck he'd been driving. Additionally, sources told NBC10 Boston a man who was found dead at a Rockland hotel on the day of the crash had also been at a company holiday party, along with Goodsell.

A driver accused of causing a crash that killed a 13-year-old girl and injuring two others in Pembroke, Massachusetts, pleaded not guilty to drunken driving charges Monday.

Here’s everything we know about the tragic crash.

'I Drank Way Too Much, I'm So Sorry'

On 6:50 a.m. on December 29, Pembroke police responded to the crash on Route 139 at Church and Oak streets, which left Goodsell's wrecked truck and the Zissersons' Subaru strewn across the roadway.

Claire and Elizabeth Zisserson, as well as Zemotel, were taken to South Shore Hospital.

Goodsell allegedly acknowledged to police that he was severely impaired. Prosecutors said he told officers at the scene of the crash, "I know I shouldn't have been driving, I can't believe I did this. I drank way too much, I'm so sorry."

Smelling of alcohol, Goodsell also admitted to having taken cocaine at the company Christmas party he was coming from, prosecutors said in court. They added that witnesses said he was speeding before the crash, with one saying he passed them at about 90 mph, "the speed of lightning," in a no-passing zone.

Goodsell was driving a vehicle owned by his employer, Hi-Way Safety Systems, at the time of the incident, authorities said, and the company's name was on a truck seen there. Prosecutors said a half-empty bottle of whiskey was found in the truck after the defendant allegedly slammed into the Subaru.

Zemotel, of Plymouth, an 8th grader at Rising Tide Charter School like Claire was, remains in critical condition after the crash. Elizabeth Zisserson has been released from the hospital.

The family of a 13-year-old girl who was severely injured Sunday in Pembroke, Massachusetts, when an alleged drunk driver slammed into the car she was riding in, says she continues to fight for her life.

More on Gregory Goodsell, the Driver Charged With Manslaughter

Goodsell was ordered held without bail last week after a judge found him to be a danger to the public.

The same day, Hi-Way Safety Systems said it had fired Goodsell and that the company would cooperate with investigations into the crash.

The company said Goodsell was fired because of the crash and repeated company violations: "unauthorized use of a company vehicle for personal use during non-work hours on the evening of December 28th and possession of alcohol in the vehicle."

Based in Rockland, the company provides a range of pavement marking, road safety and traffic control services for private contractors and local, state and federal agencies, according to its website.

Prosecutors said Goodsell has an extensive driving history involving 35 incidents, including a previous accident that led to reckless operation, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct charges.

Goodsell faces nine charges, including manslaughter and drunken driving, in connection to the deadly crash in Pembroke. He is scheduled to return to court on Feb. 10 for a probable cause hearing.

A Massachusetts man accused of killing a 13-year-old girl in an alleged DUI crash in Pembroke was ordered held without bail Friday after a judge found him to be a danger to the public.

Goodsell's father, Jay Goodsell, said his son has a 21-month-old daughter and is a "good kid" who messed up. He also expressed deep sympathies for the victims

Second Death Connected to the Same Party, Source Says

About an hour after the crash, emergency responders found an unresponsive man at a Comfort Inn hotel in Rockland. The man, later identified as 41-year-old Joseph Amaral, of Rockland, was pronounced dead at South Shore Hospital.

A source confirmed to NBC10 Boston that Amaral was at the same holiday party as Goodsell.

The Plymouth County District Attorney only said the cause of death is under investigation.

Amaral's longtime friend, Natioe Alves, spoke with NBC10 Boston after helping Amaral's family pick out his burial plot. Alves would not comment on the investigation but said he is focused on raising money for Amaral's wife and six children.

NBC10 Boston also obtained a Pembroke police log that shows officers responded to the home where the party happened for a report of non-aggravated assault Sunday morning. But police would not release further details.

What We Know About Hi-Way Safety Systems

Hi-Way Safety Systems has been a contractor and subcontractor on state road construction projects, but in the wake of the crash, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation said it revoked the company's prequalification status.

Any project valued higher than $50,000 requires a contractor to be prequalified, according to MassDot.

"Based on recent media reports, MassDOT has serious concerns with the current management structure of Hi-Way Safety Systems, Inc. and its ability to make responsible decisions concerning the conduct of its managers and employees," Isidoro DeJesus Perez, the department's prequalification director, wrote in the letter to the company.

The company has released a statement offering condolences for the victims of the Pembroke crash and detailing why Goodsell's job was terminated, but it hasn't commented on any investigations and said it wouldn't do so while investigations were active.

According to federal highway safety records, Hi-Way Safety Systems has 94 vehicles and 118 drivers. It underwent 29 inspections in the last two years resulting in 42 total violations, including two violations in which drivers were found to be in possession of drugs or alcohol in New Hampshire in May 2019 and in Maine in September 2018.

The company’s vehicles were also previously involved in two crashes, but neither resulted in injuries, according to federal records.

Two of the company's workers also died on the job in recent years.

Federal safety officials have levied initial fines totaling $54,824 against the company since 2010, and charged it with five serious safety violations, although Hi-Way Safety Systems was later found responsible for only four serious violations after reaching settlements with OSHA. It paid a combined $23,319 in fines as a result, and is challenging a $12,675 fine stemming from the workplace fatality in 2016.

Claire Zisserson: 'Caring Girl With a Beautiful Heart’

At a vigil at Brewster Gardens in Plymouth on Sunday, friends and loved ones remembered Claire Zisserson on what would have been her fourteenth birthday.

According to her obituary, Claire was a gifted athlete with a passion for soccer who also excelled at basketball, cross country and tennis. She enjoyed singing with her friends, making videos and playing the piano.

"It's really tough to lose a best friend like that, but I have a lot of people here supporting me through this tough time," said Zach Adams, who described her as perennially fun and helpful.

"Everyone was in a lot of shock because it happened so fast," he said. "They just couldn't believe what was going or didn't want to believe it was real."

"Claire has been an amazing family member of our school and the loss of any family member is as hard as it gets," said Michael O'Keefe of Rising Tide Charter at the vigil. "Despite the pain, what they spread tonight was love."

Elizabeth Zisseron described her daughter in a statement to NBC10 Boston as a “bright, kind and caring girl with a beautiful heart…. She loved her family, her friends and her teammates. She was a ray of sunshine."

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