KINGMAN - The family of a 14-year-old Gold Canyon boy who died in an accident on Interstate 40 in Kingman one week ago believes the boy was trying to help save his dog when he was killed.
The Granata family disputes the theory that Nicolas, whom they called Nico, was thrown from the truck after it was hit by another vehicle because he wasn't wearing a seatbelt. The driver of the truck, Nico's father Paul, lost his brother, Peter, in a car accident seven years ago because Peter wasn't wearing a seatbelt. Paul won't even start a car until everyone is buckled in, says his cousin, Dianna Granata.
Paul and his son were towing another vehicle from Phoenix on their way home to Las Vegas around 7:45 p.m. Nov. 2 when something happened to the trailer and affected Paul's ability to control the truck.
Based on what he's told family members, the truck struck the side guardrail before coming to rest perpendicular to traffic in the middle of Interstate 40.
Dianna Granata said Paul saw an oncoming vehicle and told his son to get out of the truck. Paul himself was apparently climbing over the center console to the passenger side seat when the truck was struck by an SUV. Paul had to be extricated from the truck by firefighters. Nico was pronounced dead at the scene.
His family believes Nico had ample time to get away from the truck but that he returned to assist his dog, Buddy, who was in the backseat. Emergency responders found no dog at the scene, however, and family members who returned to the scene found no trace of him either.
It wasn't until yesterday that the Granatas got a call from an area family who found Buddy in their backyard. His leash had gotten tangled in a cactus. They were able to track the family down based on his tag, not initially knowing the importance of their discovery.
"We'll never get Nico back, but having Buddy is like a sliver of joy in an ocean of sadness," Dianna Granata said. "It's a comfort to his father to have the dog back that Nico loved so much."
Nico lived in Chicago with his mom for most of his life before moving to Arizona where he had family members in Gold Canyon and Phoenix. He and his father lived in Las Vegas at the time of the accident. Dianna said the two were exceptionally close. They adopted Buddy, a Siberian husky mix, from a Las Vegas shelter about a year ago.
Nico is described as an animal lover and a truck and car enthusiast.
"Ever since he was little he could identify a car's make and model, even just by the headlights sometimes," Dianna Granata said.
Nico is survived by his father, Paul, his grandmother, Helen Granata, his mother Kristine and two brothers, Anakin and Jeremy Schroeder.