The deaths of four Yale students on Jan. 17 reverberated through the sports community, from fellow Yale athletes to ESPN producers.
Shortly after Kyle Burnat’s ’05 death was confirmed on Friday, Paul Pabst, a producer of ESPN’s “The Dan Patrick Show,” wrote a tribute to Burnat on the ESPN Web site.
“I’m not too sure why I wrote this,” Pabst wrote in the piece. “It may be more for me than you. I do know two things: I wish you could have met this kid, and I know I’m sad that I won’t get to see him again. Now I know what numb is.”
Early Friday morning, a sports utility vehicle carrying nine Yale students, all brothers in the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity, crashed into a jackknifed tractor-trailer rig on Interstate-95. The accident claimed the lives of four of the passengers. Burnat, Andrew Dwyer ’05 and Sean Fenton ’04 were pronounced dead at the scene. Nicholas Grass ’05 died Saturday at St. Vincent’s Medical Center in Bridgeport.
The accident hit the Yale athletics community especially hard: Fenton was a former football linebacker, and both Burnat and Grass were pitchers on the baseball team.
Christopher Gary ’06, Cameron Fine ’06, Brett Smith ’06 and Eric Wenzel ’03, all injured in the crash, are on the football team. Wenzel is also a goalie on the lacrosse team. Zachery Bradley ’05, hurt in the accident, plays baseball.
Teammates of the deceased, still occupied with memorial services and funerals, are clinging to each other for support.
“It’s not easy right now. Half of us just went from Atlanta to Massachusetts, but we are all sticking together,” baseball captain Steven Duke ’03 said.
Funeral services for Burnat were held at Temple Sinai in Atlanta on Monday, and a funeral for Nicholas Grass ’05 took place Tuesday in Holyoke, Mass., at Holy Cross Church.
“People on campus will tell you, if there is one baseball guy, there are five baseball guys,” Duke said. “We are a tight family. This is even harder to take because we are so close.”
The Athletics Department is taking precautions to help the Bulldog sports community deal with this difficult time.
“Our concern now is to support those who were affected by the accident and ease the effect that this is having on the coaches and student athletes,” said Steve Conn, Yale director of sports publicity. “The Yale community has been wonderful in coming together to help us. It’s heartwarming to see that.”
Conn and other athletics officials have met with religious leaders and medical personnel on campus to discuss various ways to help coaches and players.
“The administration has done an incredible job in providing support for guys here at DKE guys on the various athletic teams and the student population at large,” said Jason Lange ’03, captain of the football team.
Once the news of the crash reached athletics department officials on Friday, the men’s basketball game against Brown was postponed until Saturday, and the swim team’s meet against Fordham were cancelled, out of respect for the deceased.
“We are all glad that the game was canceled that night because we needed the time to get some perspective on what happened,” basketball captain Chris Leanza ’03 said.
Men’s basketball coach James Jones said his team felt the effect of the tragedy acutely.
“Our players certainly are impacted on a personal level,” he said. “We spoke about it as a team in the locker room. Some of the kids on the team had tears in their eyes.”
Basketball player Edwin Draughan ’05 felt that playing the game on Saturday helped him cope.
“I was able to block out some of the pain that I felt for those guys [victims of the accident],” he said.
Draughan is also Bradley’s suitemate.
“I just visited [Bradley] in the hospital, and he is recovering and in better spirits,” Draughan said.
Every article published about the accident mentions the victims’ sports affiliations, but Lange refrains from making that distinction.
“I knew of them as guys — not really as athletes — but just as people,” he said.
— Staff Reporter Steven Sun contributed to this report.