Crash claims fourth victim

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Updated at 3:15 p.m.



A fourth Yale student died this afternoon from injuries sustained in a Friday morning car crash that has already claimed the lives of three other students.

Five more were seriously injured after their sport utility vehicle collided with a tractor-trailer on Interstate 95 early yesterday morning.

Sophomore Nicholas Grass, 19, of Holyoke, Mass., died at 12:30 this afternoon at St. Vincent’s Medical Center in Bridgeport, a hospital spokeswoman said.

University officials confirmed that sophomore Kyle Burnat, 19, of Atlanta, Ga., sophomore Andrew Dwyer, 19, of Hobe Sound, Fla., and junior Sean Fenton, 20, of Newport Beach, Calif., were pronounced dead at the scene. All three died of massive head injuries, a representative from the state medical examiner’s office said. Nine students were involved in the accident, according to state police officials.

Freshman Brett Smith, 18, of Papillion, Neb., has moved to critical condition from serious condition at Norwalk Hospital’s intensive care unit. In an e-mail sent to students at 10:18 a.m., Ezra Stiles Master Traugott Lawler said Smith is stable and improving.

Freshman Cameron Fine, 18, of Phoenix, Ariz., was discharged from St. Vincent’s Medical Center in Bridgeport at 11:50 a.m. this morning, a hospital official said.

Senior Eric Wenzel, 21, of Garden City, N.Y., also is still in critical condition this afternoon at Bridgeport Hospital. He sustained neck, shoulder and chest injuries, Jonathan Edwards Master Gary Haller wrote in an e-mail sent at 10:30 this morning.

Sophomore Zachery Bradley, 19, of Alexander, Ark., was listed in fair condition, a hospital official said. According to Haller’s e-mail, Bradley is able to speak and could be released as early as Monday.

Freshman Christopher Gary, 18, of Nazareth, Pa., was also injured in the accident and is at Norwalk Hospital.

The students were returning from a Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity event in New York, four sources close to the students said. All nine students were traveling in a 1999 Chevrolet Tahoe, state police said.

Yale administrators shared more information with students and held a brief vigil last night at 7:30 p.m. in the John J. Lee Amphitheater.

Afterward, college masters hosted talks with students in their houses. The University Chaplain’s office, operating out of Dwight Hall, will be open 24 hours a day through the weekend. The Mental Hygiene Department at University Health Services will have staff on duty until 11 p.m. and personnel on call after 11 p.m., Dean of Student Affairs Betty Trachtenberg said.

Students living off-campus will be able to eat free of charge in their residential college dining hall through Monday night.

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

A tractor-trailer rig heading north lost control and partially crossed the concrete barrier that separates the two sides of the highway, said Sgt. J. Paul Vance, a state police spokesman.

Vance said at that point a car and another tractor-trailer heading south came into contact with the first truck, then the SUV carrying the Yale students smashed into the rear of the first tractor-trailer rig.

Yale altered Friday’s athletics schedule because of the accident. Friday’s basketball game has been postponed until tonight at 7 p.m. and a swim meet has been cancelled.

In the hours before the fatal accident, state police said there had been a number of other accidents reported on I-95 in Norwalk, New Haven and Westport when there was snow on the highway.

There was also a car rollover reported northbound about 4 a.m. in the area where the fatal accident occurred an hour later.

Radio station WICC-AM of Bridgeport reported that a tractor-trailer rig carrying generators crashed and one of the generators became airborne and crushed the SUV.

— Marlon Castillo, Martha Fulford, Lindsey Mergener and Steven Sun contributed to this report. The Associated Press also contributed to this report.

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