Updated Tuesday 1:25 p.m. A second-year graduate student at the Yale School of Drama was killed Sunday morning in an accident at the Yale Repertory Theatre, University officials said.
Pierre-André Salim DRA ’09, of Jakarta, Indonesia, was injured while unloading materials for an upcoming production from a truck outside the theater, University Spokesman Tom Conroy said. The accident occurred at 8:51 a.m., police said, and Salim was later pronounced dead at Yale-New Haven Hospital.
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Salim, 26, was helping to remove several large sheets of particleboard from back of the tractor-trailer truck when the truck’s load shifted, said Robert W. Kowalski, area director for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The sheets of particleboard, which were propped up against one wall of the trailer, fell on Salim and pinned him against the other wall of the truck, Kowalski said.
A medical examiner ruled Monday that Salim died of massive head injuries caused by the accident.
In response to the accident, the Drama School delayed the opening of the play for which Salim was helping prepare and scheduled a memorial for Tuesday evening in the University Theatre. Salim’s death was a devastating loss for the Drama School community, Drama School Dean James Bundy said in a prepared statement.
“Pierre very quickly established himself in the School of Drama as a student with tremendous professional promise and skill, unbridled enthusiasm for the art of the theatre, and a generous collaborative spirit that made him dear to his teachers, the staff, and his fellow students,” Bundy said. “To see the tragic passing of a young man of such obvious gifts fills our community with deep sadness — our hearts go out to his family.”
Salim was helping to prepare for the Repertory Theatre’s upcoming production of Molière’s “Tartuffe” when the accident occurred, the Theatre said. On his Facebook profile, Salim wrote on Saturday that he was “almost ready to load-in,” the theatrical term for moving the set and props for a production into the theater.
The play was scheduled to open Nov. 26. It will now begin Dec. 3, with opening night scheduled for Dec. 6, the Theatre announced Monday.
“We are delaying performances in part to give our community time to come together in support of Pierre’s family, friends and colleagues, and begin to heal,” Bundy said in a news release. He declined to be interviewed this week.
On Sunday, Bundy and members of the Drama School gathered to mourn the loss of the student and lend support to one other, Conroy said. A private memorial service for Salim’s family and members of the Drama School community was scheduled for 5 p.m. Tuesday in the University Theatre, David Mayhew, a spokesman for the Drama School said.
Salim, the son of Dr. Sidharta Salim and Li Ling Tjoe of Jakarta, Indonesia, was to receive his Master’s Degree in Technical Design and Production in 2009. He graduated the National University of Singapore in 2002 with a degree in computer science and moved to New Haven last year to attend the Drama School.
Salim was born in Strasbourg, France, on Sept. 17, 1981, and was raised in Jakarta. He found his love for theater while in college, working as a crew member for productions at the University Cultural Centre and in his residence hall at the National University of Singapore.
After graduating, Salim remained in Singapore and worked as a production crew member and stage manager for several Singapore theater companies, including Checkpoint Theatre, Wild Rice, Theatre Practice and Toy Factory.
“Pierre was a pivotal figure in the Singapore scene,” said Huzir Sulaiman, Joint Artistic Director of Singapore’s Checkpoint Theatre, in a statement released by the Yale Rep. “So many of us worked with him, and all of us loved him for his professionalism, his kindness, and his good humor. His death has left the whole community in shock.”
Salim is survived by his parents; a brother, Michel Alexandre Salim, 27, a doctoral student at Indiana University; and a sister, Adeline Salim, 21, a medical student at the University of Liverpool in the United Kingdom; and his maternal grandmother, Pat Lee Pin.
“I will always cherish the memories of growing up with Pierre,” Michel said in a statement released by the Rep. “He was a natural organizer, dating back to being class treasurer in secondary school, and took to theatre production naturally. It is a tragedy that he died at so tender an age, but we can say that he has led a bountiful life, and he shall live on in our memories.”
The New Haven Police Department is investigating the accident, police said. OSHA determined it did not have jurisdiction to investigate the accident because it did not involve an employer-employee relationship, Kowalski said, and the Yale Police Department declined to comment on the incident. The accident occurred near the corner of Chapel and York streets, police said, which gives the NHPD authority over the case.
Salim’s cause of death was determined to be cranium cerebral trauma, a spokesman for the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner said Monday. It was ruled to be an accidental death, the spokesman said.
The Yale Rep will contact ticket holders for the cancelled Nov. 26 to Dec. 1 performances, the Theatre said in a news release. Ticket holders can also contact the Theatre’s box office.
In lieu of flowers, family members have asked that donations in Salim’s memory be made to UNICEF, c/o UNICEF/USA, 333 East 38th Street, New York, NY 10016.