A car traveling east on Rt. 79 carrying five students — four from SUNY Binghamton and one from the University of Michigan — crashed on Friday night, leaving one student dead and another charged with vehicular manslaughter. The students were leaving Cornell after attending the University's Slope Day festivities.
According to the Ithaca Journal, 22-year-old Willie Poon was pronounced dead at Cayuga Medical Center on Saturday morning due to a fatal head injury. Poon, who was a senior at Binghamton and two weeks from graduating, was not wearing a seatbelt during the accident, according to James K. Boodley, a chaplain at the hospital.
The driver of the vehicle, 20-year-old Rolyden C. Liu, has been charged with driving while intoxicated and second-degree vehicular manslaughter, a felony. He was initially sent to the Tompkins County Jail and released on bail on Saturday evening. He is scheduled to appear in the Town of Caroline Court on Tuesday and 9 a.m., The Journal reported.
“This is an absolutely needless loss,” Boodley said. “It was devastating for the family, the fraternity brothers [that he was with] and for everyone who was involved. I can’t stress enough — you’ve got to wear a seatbelt. This kid would probably be alive today if he had been wearing a seatbelt.”
The staff at the hospital spent hours trying to revive Poon. They “pulled together to do everything they could to save this kid,” Boodley remarked. “It really was extraordinary teamwork and they were very moved.”
Poon was visiting the local chapter of Lambda Phi Epsilon, an Asian-American fraternity that he and at least two of the other students were members of at Binghamton. It has not yet been confirmed if the students had attended any of the University’s supervised Slope Day events, which included a concert where beer was sold on campus to students of legal drinking age. According to The Journal, the Tompkins County Sheriff's office has not released information regarding where the students had been prior to the accident.