BEVERLY — Just a few days ago, Joseph Castano was a college student visiting his best friend and looking at schools he might transfer to this fall to study business, said his lawyer.

Now, Castano, 20, of Williston, Vermont, is facing charges of vehicular homicide in the death early Saturday of his friend since childhood, Craig Sampson, 19, an Endicott College sophomore killed when the BMW police say Castano was driving slammed sideways into a utility pole.

And Castano is recovering from his own serious injuries: a brain bleed, a broken back, broken collarbone and bruising on his lungs.

“This is an extraordinarily difficult time,” said Castano’s lawyer, Randy Chapman, shortly after Castano’s parents posted their son’s $25,000 bail Tuesday afternoon. “Craig Sampson was Joe’s best friend from childhood. Obviously he is devastated by what happened.”

What happened, according to a series of police reports, is Castano had a blood alcohol level of .22 — nearly three times the legal limit of .08 — after the crash, which happened on Hale Street around 12:30 a.m. Saturday.

Surveillance cameras captured the BMW as it veered across the center line of the road, traveling sideways before slamming into a utility pole.

The crash

A few moments before the crash, Endicott campus police Sgt. Jeremy Cole was at the main entrance of campus, police said, when he saw the car pull out of Prince Street squealing its tires.

He waved at the car trying to signal the driver to slow down, he told Beverly police, but the BMW just sped past him.

Another campus police officer, Cameron Fahey, saw the BMW pass him, speeding, moments before he heard the crash.

Two Endicott students who were walking on Hale Street told police they saw the car come up behind them, fast enough that they feared it might hit them.

The two young women turned and saw the car veer into the opposite lane, brakes squealing, as it appeared to try to make a sharp turn into a campus entrance near Rogers Hall, they told police.

Instead, it traveled sideways into a pole, pinning Sampson in the passenger seat.

It is about a half-mile from Prince Street to the crash scene, police estimated.

Beverly Police Patrolman Michael Bucci found no pulse when he checked on Sampson, according to the police report. He tried to use a device called an “ambu bag” to get him to breathe, but had difficulty reaching the passenger because of the way the car came to rest against the pole. Castano was breathing but unconscious.

Bucci and Patrolman Frank Wojick tried to open the driver’s side door but couldn’t, due to the damage, the report states.

Once the driver’s side door was opened by firefighters, Castano fell out. Police say he tried to crawl away before being put on a backboard and taken to the hospital.

Inside the car, police would find a backpack that contained a 750-milliliter bottle of Ciroc apple vodka, which was at least three-quarters empty, police said, along with a small amount of marijuana inside a grinder, and a Vermont man’s wallet.

At Beverly Hospital, doctors concluded Castano was suffering acute alcohol intoxication; his vomit filled the emergency room with the smell of alcohol, police wrote.

Court appearance

Due to the seriousness of his injuries, Castano was transferred to Lahey Hospital in Burlington, where he was released on Monday evening. He and his parents spent the night in a hotel, and Chapman, his attorney, made arrangements for Castano to turn himself in at court Tuesday morning.

He appeared in court in a large brace, his arm in a sling.

Prosecutors and Chapman had already agreed to a $25,000 cash bail; Castano’s parents Christopher and Kerry Castano arrived at court with their son and a cashier’s check.

Citing procedural rules, Judge Robert Brennan ordered Castano into custody briefly until his parents actually posted the bail in the clerk’s office down the hall.

Castano will be allowed to return to Vermont with his parents but will have a device called a “Sobrietor,” which allows a probation officer to request breath samples at random intervals to test for alcohol, installed in his home.

He has also been ordered not to drive and to have no contact with the Sampson family while the case is pending. A pre-trial hearing is scheduled for June 7.

In addition to the vehicular homicide charge, Castano faces charges of being a minor in possession of alcohol, speeding and failing to stay within marked lanes.

It is not known whether Castano, who was a student at the University of Vermont, has any prior record. But Beverly police indicated in their report that they have obtained a copy of a July 2014 incident report from the Shelburne, Vermont, police department.

Castano was a standout soccer player in high school. Earlier in his teens, he and a brother had run a food drive for needy people in Vermont’s Champlain Valley, his hometown newspaper, the Williston Observer, reported in 2011.

“Right now, the hope is that given the severity of his injuries, he’ll be able to go home and recuperate and come to grips with what has happened,” said Chapman.

“Their hearts go out to the family of Craig Sampson,” said the lawyer. “They considered him almost like a son.”

“This is just completely something nobody could possibly have anticipated,” said Chapman, who declined to address the specific allegations or answer questions about where the two young men had been that night prior to the crash.

He said Castano’s parents hope that other teens and young adults tempted to drink and drive learn from the tragedy.

Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, via email at or on Twitter @SNJulieManganis.

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