A 22-year-old law student was the first traffic fatality of the new year after the car he was in with four friends crashed into a wall in Nadur early yesterday morning.
Matthew Meilak, from Swieqi, was thrown out of the blue Peugeot 106 with the force of impact and ended up on the ground about 12 metres from the wrecked vehicle.
Another passenger, Miguel Camilleri, also 22, from San Ġwann, sustained serious injuries. Following emergency surgery at Gozo General Hospital, his condition was later described as stable.
The car was being driven from Nadur in the direction of Victoria by 22-year-old Mcast student Terrence Tanti, from San Ġwann.
Edward Cole from Sliema and Alexander Scerri Herrera from Kappara were also in the vehicle.
All three were hospitalised for a medical check-up but were released as they suffered no injuries.
The accident took place at about 3.45am on Rabat Road, which leads from Nadur to Victoria.
The group of friends went to Gozo to celebrate New Year’s Eve following their graduation last month. They were staying in San Lawrenz and had been to a private party at a farmhouse in Nadur with friends.
One of the young men was found wandering visibly suffering from shock
Sources close to the investigation told Times of Malta it was not raining at the time. The car smashed into a wall at a bend, turned on its side and crashed into an electricity pole. Mr Meilak was thrown out of the car and suffered severe head injuries. A medical team was soon on site but the young student succumbed to his injuries.
When paramedics and police officers arrived on the scene, they were told by the young men that one of them was missing. After 35 minutes, they found Mr Scerri Herrera, visibly suffering from shock, wandering in the whereabouts and heading towards Victoria.
Civil Protection Department personnel had to be called in to free the driver and other passengers from the wreckage.
Soon after the accident a powerful storm hit Gozo, making it difficult for the police and court experts to compile evidence as instructed by Magistrate Joanne Vella Cuschieri.
Tributes soon started pouring in from people who knew Mr Meilak, especially law course colleagues, who lauded his jovial character and described him as a great person.
Luke Mizzi, who also graduated as a notary last month, said his friend had big dreams for his future after graduating as a lawyer in 2016. He said Mr Meilak was always ready to lend a hand and he still could not believe what had happened.
Other friends, who preferred not to be named, said they were still in shock at the news.
In a post on his Facebook page in October, Mr Meilak wrote that he was looking forward to his graduation, a holiday with friends in Amsterdam and then partying for Christmas and the new year.
There have been two other tragedies on New Year’s Day in the past 10 years.
A few hours into 2006, second-year university student Jeanette Mifsud fell to her death off the bastion at Valletta during a party at the Mediterranean Conference Centre. She was taken ill and went outside for some fresh air, toppled over the wall and fell on to a boathouse below, hitting a metal rod on the bastion wall as she dropped.
Six years later, on January 1, 2012, Malta woke up to news of a double murder in a penthouse in Sliema. The case is still shrouded in mystery as the precise dynamics of what happened that night remain unknown.
Duncan Zammit, a 32-year-old father of two, and Nicholas Gera, a 26-year-old of Sliema, died of multiple stab wounds in what the police believe was a violent struggle between them in Mr Zammit’s apartment.