Teen driver in fatal Rindge Tesla crash pleads guilty; mother of victim chooses ‘grace and forgiveness’

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Nina Colasanto died of injuries sustained in an accident on her 19th birthday. Her mother, Christina Bassett, said in court on July 8 that she forgives the driver, Travis Olson. Courtesy Photo

RINDGE, NH – The Rindge man who crashed his Tesla sports car in 2018, causing the vehicle to explode resulting in the death of one of his passengers, pleaded guilty Wednesday to one count of vehicular assault.

Travis Olson, 19, won’t go to jail for the death of his friend, Nina Colasanto, a New Ipswich girl who was 19 when she died from injuries she sustained in the fiery crash. Colasanto’s mother, Christina Bassett, said during the hearing that she forgave Olson for the crash rather than allow anger to eat away at her.

“I choose grace and forgiveness,” Bassett said.

Bassett recalled the night of the crash, Dec. 26, 2018, her daughter’s birthday, when she got a call from a stranger.

“It was a woman telling me my daughter had been in an accident and that she wanted to speak with me,” Bassett said. The woman put her daughter on the phone.

“Nina told me she was sorry, and she told me that she loved me. I didn’t know why she was sorry.” Bassett said that she later realized that her daughter, in the moments after the crash, understood the extent of her own injuries.

“She knew how badly she was hurt, and she knew she wasn’t going to make it. And that was the last time I spoke to my daughter,” Bassett said.

Colasanto reportedly underwent numerous surgeries in the days after the Dec. 26 crash due to burns, broken bones, and lung problems. She died in January during a surgery at UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester, Mass.

Olson’s Tesla Model X was headed east on Perry Road in Rindge when it went off the road and crashed into a tree that night. Olson and another passenger, Chelsea Holombo, then 17, of New Ipswich, were taken to Monadnock Community Hospital in Peterborough with non-life-threatening injuries.

Colasanto was trapped in the burning wreck when Perry Road residents rushed out of their homes and got her out, according to police. Their efforts were credited with saving her that night, allowing first responders to get her to the hospital.

The all-electric Tesla vehicle is a sports car capable of going from 0 to 60 miles per hour in 4.5 seconds. It’s starting price ranges from $85,000 to $150,000 depending on the options.

Bassett agreed to speak at the hearing because she wanted the court to know, on the record, about her daughter.

“Nina’s worth is immeasurable,” Bassett said.

Bassett also said she understood that the crash was the result of an accident, and not from drug use, drinking, or texting. Speed was the determining factor in the crash, according to court records.

“He was speeding. It was an accident,” she said.

Olson was sentenced to one year in the Cheshire House of Corrections, deferred for one year. During that time, Olson is to remain on good behavior, not be charged with any new motor vehicle infractions, and complete 100 hours of community service. Olson will additionally have his driver’s license suspended for 30 days.

While Olson did not make a statement during the hearing, Judge David Ruoff told him that in many other similar cases, people end up in jail for a long time. Olson needed to appreciate the weight of Bassett’s statement, Ruoff told him.

“You may never know what it took for Ms. Bassett to say what she just said to you,” Ruoff said.