Stephen Massina Jr.'s mother knew Sunday there was nothing more anyone could do for him, as he lay in a coma after he was critically injured during a car crash in Ronkonkoma a week earlier.
"You know your son is gone, but his heart is still beating," Margaret Massina said Tuesday afternoon, about two hours after her son, 16, was taken off life support at Stony Brook University Medical Center and pronounced dead. "It's torture. . . . A mother knows."
Doctors on Sunday had told the Massina family, of Sayville, that Stephen was brain dead, but he was kept on life support because of the teen's wishes to be an organ donor, his mother said.
The Connetquot High School sophomore was a passenger in a BMW that was struck by a 2008 Dodge pickup truck at Veterans Memorial Highway and Ocean Avenue on April 10 at 11:22 p.m., Suffolk police said. The BMW driver, Eugene Franjola, 17, of Oakdale, was killed. The truck's driver, David Heise, 28, of Selden, was arrested and charged with third-degree aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle.
The deaths of the two teens are "certainly weighing heavily on Mr. Heise," said his attorney, Eric Besso of Sayville. "We certainly know we weren't the cause of the accident."
Heise pleaded not guilty at his arraignment and was released on $25,000 bail, Besso said.
Suffolk Det. Sgt. Daniel Molloy said the investigation is ongoing. Detectives were conferring with the district attorney's office about whether charges will be upgraded, he said.
Stephen's grandfather, Robert Massina Sr., 76, of East Islip, said he will always remember the teen, one of his 13 grandchildren, as "a big, strapping boy" who was on the school's wrestling and football teams.
The grandfather said he's glad that before the crash, the teens had already dropped off the two girls they had attended a dance with earlier that night.
Days before he was pronounced dead, news of Massina's condition spread on Facebook memorial pages started by classmates. His mother said she posted a message on Sunday so that teens could begin mourning. "I felt I needed to let them know he had passed," she said.
"Eugene and Stephen were from an amazing community," she said. "It has really rocked the entire community. The support has been relentless."
Margaret Massina, 45, said her son was a peaceful child, who enjoyed fishing with his father, Stephen Sr., 46.
"My baby boy," she said through tears from the hospital. "He was an absolute angel."