SMITHFIELD, R.I. (WPRI) — “Why do bad things happen to good people?”
That’s what the friends of Anthony “AJ” Manieri have been wondering since the 56-year-old died in a car crash over the weekend.
Manieri was driving in the high-speed lane on I-295 South in Smithfield Sunday afternoon when he lost control of his pickup truck, according to Rhode Island State Police.
Police said Manieri’s truck spun across the center and right lanes before crashing into a tree. Manieri was pronounced dead at the scene.
“I got a call from my wife on Sunday, hysterical, because AJ’s wife, who he adored, called my wife,” Tim Kane recalled. “I got in the car and drove to her house and tried to make some sense of it.”
It was a call that Kane, who’s known Manieri for more than three decades, wasn’t expecting to receive.
“He’s one of my best friends,” Kane said. “You don’t believe it, you can’t believe it.”
The crash happened during the first snowfall of the season. Police said troopers responded to 54 crashes on state roadways, including Manieri’s, which was the only fatal one.
Kane said his friend was on his way to do some shopping at a few stores when he was killed.
“He told his wife, ‘I’m going to go get some quiche and run some errands,'” Kane said. “She’s devastated. He was her life.”
Kane said I-295 is very dangerous when it snows.
“I wish the roads maybe were treated a little better,” Kane said. “I don’t think they were … but we can’t get him back.”
12 News reached out to the Rhode Island Department of Transportation, and a spokesperson said the highway had been treated prior to Sunday’s snowfall.
Greg DiStefano, another close friend of Manieri, described him as “the most humble, down-to-earth person.”
“I’ve never met anybody who didn’t like or even love him,” DiStefano said. “He’s a one-in-a-million guy.”
DiStefano attended Moses Brown High School with Manieri, who grew up in Johnston. He went on to Providence College, then studied law at Suffolk University.
Manieri had been working as an attorney in Massachusetts.
“He was an excellent attorney, a zealous advocate for his clients,” Kane said. “He loved the action of being in a courtroom.”
While Manieri loved being an attorney, his friends want him to be remembered for the person he was outside of the courtroom.
“He was a good person,” Kane added. “He would treat a streetsweeper the same way he’d treat a CEO.”
Manieri lived in Providence for years before buying his dream home in North Attleboro with his wife Trisha a few years ago.
Kane said while his passing has created an unimaginable void for all of his loved ones, they take solace in knowing he was happy right up until the very end.
“[He was] content, loved his family, loved his wife, loved his house, loved his pets, loved his job … he had everything,” Kane said. “I guess he died a happy man.”
The investigation into the crash is ongoing.
Anyone who witnessed the crash is asked to contact Rhode Island State Police at (401) 444-1000.