NJ man pleads guilty in dog death after truck falls through ice
Pickup truck falls through ice in Toms River
Updated 1 hr 21 mins ago
TOMS RIVER, N.J. -- A New Jersey man whose dog was inside a pickup truck that plunged through the ice on a frozen river has admitted his responsibility for the dog's death.
Ocean County prosecutors say Andrew Mayer pleaded guilty Monday to animal cruelty. They will recommend the 29-year-old Toms River man receive a 364-day county jail term when he's sentenced Dec. 9 and be barred from owning a pet.
Mayer also will have to pay restitution.
Mayer's 2-year-old boxer mix, Rolo, was found dead after the truck sank in March 2015. A witness told police that the truck was driven to the center of the river and began spinning in circles.
Another man got out of the truck before it went onto the ice. Neither he nor Mayer were injured.
Man tried to save dog after truck sank in Toms River, relative says
By MaryAnn Spoto | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
on March 03, 2015 at 10:59 AM, updated March 03, 2015 at 4:08 PM
Rolo, the 2-year-old boxer-lab mix who died when his owner's car sank in the icy waters of the Toms River (Photo courtesy of Helecia Morris)
PINE BEACH — The man whose pickup truck sank in the Toms River after he drove out onto the ice tried to save his dog as the vehicle was slipping into the frigid water, his relatives said.
But the frightened animal wouldn't leave the vehicle as the water rushed in, the relative said. The dog's owner, Andrew Mayer, struggled to save the 2-year-old boxer-lab named Rolo until he was submerged up to his neck in the freezing water, said Mayer's cousin, Donna Jung.
Mayer's friends had to pull him from the water after his 1989 blue and gray Mazda B2200 pickup broke through the ice shortly after midnight on Sunday, Jung said.
"Andy jumped on the roof of the truck to get back in as the truck was going under the ice," Jung said. "His friends pulled him out a second time."
"He did almost die," Morris said of Mayer. "He did almost kill himself trying to save his dog."
Jung and her fiancée Helecia Morris said Mayer risked his life to save his dog.
Rolo was not with Mayer and his friend Daniel Jolly as they did donuts in the truck on the iced-over river off the shore of Pine Beach, Jung and Morris said.
They said that after driving on the ice, Mayer and Jolly walked to shore to play with Rolo, who was with another friend and another dog. In the meantime, Mayer left his empty truck, still on the ice, running, Jung and Morris said.
After a while, they heard police sirens and decided to get the truck off the ice, Jung said. She said that's when Rolo followed Mayer from shore and into the truck.
A photo from a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter of the truck that sank in the Toms River. (U.S. Coast Guard)
Almost immediately after getting into the truck, Mayer heard two loud bangs, which he now thinks was the ice, melting from the heat of his vehicle, cracking under the weight of the truck, Jung said.
When the truck fell into the water, Mayer tried to grab his frightened pet.
"Rolo was so scared he was pulling back from him," Morris said.
Jung said her cousin was submerged up to his neck in the freezing water.
Morris said Mayer is "infuriated" with himself for what he admits was his "stupid" actions.
"He's completely devastated. His truck, his dog - everything is in this bay," Morris said.
She said Mayer's priority now is trying to arrange to get Rolo out of the river. On Tuesday morning, a tow truck operator went to Pine Beach to try to retrieve the vehicle, but couldn't. Jung said Mayer was advised the recovery process requires using air bags to float the truck to the surface.
"We just want him out," Morris said.
Rolo was one of a litter of 11 puppies born to Jung's dog just weeks before Hurricane Sandy in 2012.
Morris said Mayer is also upset by the reaction of the public on social media labeling him as an uncaring and selfish owner. She and Jung said that is far from the man they know who took his dog everywhere except to his job as a roofer and made sure the animal's medical needs were met quickly
Mayer left the scene only after he knew he couldn't save his dog. She said his friends left him when they heard police sirens, Morris said. He couldn't call anyone because his cell phone was under water, she said. Once he got warm and dry, he surrendered to police, she said.
"He did everything by this dog," Morris said. "His dog was his child. He was his kid. Everywhere Andy went, he was right there next to him."
Police, who on Monday released the identities of the people in the vehicle, are still determining whether to charge Mayer, 27, and Jolly, 25, both of Toms River. Early Sunday morning, New Jersey State Police and U.S. Coast Guard search and rescue teams were launched after a witness reported that a vehicle was on the frozen river at the end of Gladney Avenue, authorities said.