Student dies in accident at Yale Rep

A second-year graduate student at the Yale School of Drama was killed Nov. 18 in an accident at the Yale Repertory Theatre.

Pierre-Andre 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., New Haven police said, and Salim was later pronounced dead at Yale-New Haven Hospital.

Salim, who was 26, was helping to remove several large sheets of particleboard from the back of a 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 last week that Salim died of massive head injuries caused by the accident. He was wearing a hard hat when the accident occurred, according to the New Haven Register.

In response to the accident, the Drama School delayed the opening of the play for which Salim was helping prepare and held a memorial service last Tuesday evening in the University Theatre. Salim’s death was a devastating loss for the community, Drama School Dean James Bundy said in a written statement issued Tuesday.

“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 wrote. “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 Yale Rep’s upcoming production of Moliere’s “Tartuffe” when the accident occurred. On his Facebook profile, Salim wrote Nov. 17 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 today. It will now begin previews Dec. 3, with opening night scheduled for Dec. 6.

“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 previous statement issued Monday.

He declined to be interviewed about the accident.

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, NHPD police officers said, which gives the NHPD authority over the case.

The accident remained under investigation over the weekend, but no further information was available, city spokeswoman Jessica Mayorga said.

Salim’s cause of death was determined to be cranium cerebral trauma, a spokesman for the Connecticut Office of the Chief Medical Examiner told the News last week. The death was ruled to be accidental, the spokesman 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 from 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 discovered his love of theater while in college, working as a crew member for productions at the University Cultural Centre at the University of Singapore and in his residence hall at the National University of Singapore, according to an obituary released last week by the Yale Rep.

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 the Tuesday statement. “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; 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 Salim said in the Tuesday statement. “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.”

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