Mourners remember crash victims



Hundreds of friends, family members and neighbors gathered at funeral services in Massachusetts and New York Tuesday to remember and mourn two of the four Yale students killed in an automobile accident last week.

Sophomore Andrew Dwyer, 20; sophomore Nicholas Grass, 19; sophomore Kyle Burnat, 19; and junior Sean Fenton, 20, died this weekend following the crash early Friday morning. A funeral mass for Grass was held in Holyoke, Mass., and services for Dwyer were held in Bedford, N.Y., Tuesday.

More than 500 people attended a funeral service for Burnat in Atlanta Monday, and hundreds of students attended a memorial service for Fenton in Battell Chapel Sunday.

Five other students were injured in the crash, including two who remained hospitalized Tuesday.

More than 1,000 friends and family members filled St. Matthew’s Church in Bedford, N.Y., Tuesday to remember Dwyer.

The mourners exceeded the church’s capacity, and many stood out in the cold as they listened to Dwyer’s two sisters, his father, and friends from elementary school, high school and Yale offer anecdotes from Dwyer’s life. Several Yale classmates served as ushers. Nathan Thorne ’05, who attended The Hotchkiss School with Dwyer before Yale, also spoke during the remembrances portion of the service.

Dwyer’s roommate, Eric Diamond ’05, stressed the positive tone of the ceremony and the speakers’ recollections of Dwyer’s infectious, caring nature.

“Most of all he cared about his friends and his family,” Diamond said. “He was just a great person for everyone who knew him and for the most part the mood was as upbeat as possible.”

Nearly all the speakers recalled Dwyer’s cheerful and active demeanor. He was known for lifting his friends’ spirits and accentuating the positive, they said.

Throughout the service, speakers reminded those gathered that Dwyer would want his friends to remain active and passionate about their future endeavors.

In Holyoke, Mass., a crowd of nearly 1,100 gathered in Holy Cross Church as Grass’ high school and college coaches and longtime friends spoke of his talents on and off the baseball diamond. They remembered the pitcher as “the life of the party” and “the glue that kept everyone together.”

Yale baseball coach John Stuper recalled Grass’ toughness as a pitcher and athlete, describing his admiration for the way Grass played and the way he carried himself. Speaking to Grass’ family, friends and Yale teammates, Stuper said the accident has left a large hole in his roster — but an even larger one emotionally.

“The largest hole of all resides right here in my heart,” he said. “I wish somebody could tell me what to do about that.”

Other remembrances were given by Grass’ high school football coach and childhood friends Greg Cartier, Brian Griffin, and Joey Griffin, as well as Grass’ next-door neighbor and longtime best friend Mark Florio. Florio, who had known Grass since Grass was two, described him as a loyal friend who was always smiling and joking around.

Cartier and Brian and Joey Griffin spoke of Grass’ humility. Although they liked to brag about his combination of athleticism and intelligence, they said Grass always “played it down” by joking, “I don’t go to Yale — are you kidding me?”

Mike Hirschfield ’03, one of Grass’ teammates, said in an e-mail that he was very moved — and comforted — by the funeral mass.

“I’ve been a mess since this happened, but now I feel like a wave of calm has hit me,” Hirschfield said. “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.”

In Atlanta Monday, more than 500 friends, relatives, teammates and coaches attended a memorial service for Kyle Burnat at Temple Sinai.

The funeral was held seven years to the day after Burnat’s bar mitzvah. It was performed by the same rabbi, in the same temple.

Photographs of the pitcher were displayed in the temple and his Yale jersey hung on the wall.

Calhoun College Dean Stephen Lassonde, Stuper, Burnat’s roommate and 11 baseball teammates attended the funeral. John Steitz ’02, a former Yale baseball player who now plays professionally, also attended the service.

Lassonde said many young people and family from out of town also attended the service.

“The thing that was notable to me was how grateful everyone was that people came from Yale and how much it meant to Kyle’s family,” Lassonde said.

At the service, Lassonde read a letter from Timothy Robinson, an English professor who taught Burnat in his freshman English class.

“Many people said that this was a funny guy who brought humor to any situation, and many people felt close to him because of that,” Lassonde said.

— Philip Rucker contributed to this report. The Associated Press also contributed to this report.

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