January 23, 2003

Yale Tragedy Felt Across Campuses

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Four Yale University undergraduates were killed and five injured in an early morning automobile accident last Friday on an icy Interstate 95 in Connecticut in a beginning of the semester tragedy.

The deaths affected Cornell students returning to class.

“This accident makes us remorseful as well as scares us into the realization that being between the ages of 18 and 22 does not guarantee invulnerability,” said Michelle Newman ’05.

The nine students were returning from a night of clubbing in New York when their Chevrolet Tahoe collided with a tractor-trailer rig that had lost control on the slippery roadway and crossed into oncoming traffic.

The accident, which involved four vehicles, occurred near Exit 24 at the Bridgeport-Fairfield town line shortly after 5 a.m.

Three students — Yale sophomores Kyle Burnat, Andrew Dwyer and junior Sean Fenton — died of massive head injuries the night of the accident.

The fourth victim, Yale sophomore Nicholas Grass, died the following day.

Yale freshmen Cameron Fine and Christopher Gary were discharged from the hospital on Sunday.

Yale sophomore Zachary Bradley was transferred from the hospital to the infirmary on Monday.

The two remaining passengers — freshman Brett Smith and senior Eric Wenzel — are in still in critical condition. The occupants from the three other cars involved in the accident were not seriously injured.

There is no evidence that alcohol or other substances were involved. Some eyewitnesses claim that the highway was poorly lit and not sanded despite snow and earlier accidents.

“I learned that you have to take true advantage of the times that we have with each other. That is what all four of those who died did — they made the most of their short lives here and touched thousands of people in the process with their fun-loving attitudes,” said senior Mike Hirschfield, one of Grass’ teammates told the Yale Daily News.

Most of the passengers were players on Yale’s baseball and football teams, and all nine were members or pledges of Delta Kappa Epsilon.

The DKE International is setting up a memorial scholarship in honor of their four deceased brothers.

The accident is still being investigated by the National Transportation Safety Board.

Since the day of the accident, the Yale community has been in a state of grief and reflection.

“This is a very close-knit community, not just the student athletes, but all of Yale College,” said Tom Beckett, director of athletics at Yale told the Yale Daily News. “When you have a tragedy like this, it affects the entire community.”

Yale administrators held a brief vigil the day of the accident. Afterward, college masters hosted talks with students in their dormitories. Students living off-campus were able to eat free of charge in their residential college dining hall. Yale altered last Friday’s athletics schedule postponing its basketball game until Saturday. The university even provided buses for Yale students who wished to attend the services for the deceased, according to the Yale Daily News.

The Cornell chapter of Delta Kappa Epsilon declined to speak to the Sun out of respect for the deceased and their families.

Archived article by Jonathan Square