Tragedy at tailgate leaves one dead

UPDATE: 11:57 a.m. A U-Haul truck driven by a Yale undergraduate struck three people, killing one, shortly before 10 a.m. today at the tailgate before the Yale-Harvard football game, New Haven Police Department spokesman David Hartman said.

At around 9:49 a.m., a U-Haul swerved and accelerated into the Yale Bowl’s D-Lot, Hartman said, hitting the three victims before crashing into a smaller U-Haul. Nancy Barry, a 30-year-old woman from Salem, Mass., was taken to Yale-New Haven Hospital and pronounced dead at 10:16 a.m.

The section of the tailgate where the collision occurred was closed off so an NHPD accident reconstruction team could investigate, Hartman said. Police took Brendan Ross ’13, who was driving the vehicle at the time of the incident, to NHPD headquarters on Union Avenue for questioning. Ross is not currently in custody and has not been charged with anything related to the incident.

When reached by phone Sunday morning, Ross declined to comment.

A second victim, 30-year-old Sarah Short SOM ’13, is in a serious but stable condition at Y-NHH. The third victim, Harvard employee Elizabeth Dernbach, was taken to St. Raphael’s Hospital and treated for minor injuries, Hartman confirmed.

Further details on the incident will not be available in the next few days, until the NHPD completes its full forensics investigation, Hartman said.

The U-Haul that struck the victims was bound for a tailgate put on by the fraternity Sigma Phi Epsilon. Drew Marconi ’13, a Sig Ep vice president and spokesman, did not confirm that the U-Haul was a Sig Ep vehicle, but said in a statement that the fraternity was cooperating with law enforcement officials as they investigate the incident.

“We’re deeply saddened by the events of today’s tailgate, and our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims and their families,” Marconi said. “Our leadership board and national representatives are currently working to understand the details of the situation and assess what has transgressed. We hope to know more soon.”

Angela Ramirez ’12, who was roughly 10 feet away from the truck as it was accelerating, said the U-Haul’s approach and the noise of its acceleration caused a commotion in the nearby crowd.

“There was a wave of screams when we saw the truck was going through the crowd, then a lot of ‘Oh my God’ and ‘What the hell is going on?’” Ramirez said. “There was one girl by me who was hyperventilating because she couldn’t find her friend and thought she wasn’t okay. There was another guy who couldn’t find his friend and started crying.”

The driver looked appalled after the incident, Ramirez said, and seemed unsure what had just happened.

Tiffany Ho ’12, who was in line for an identification check when the accident occurred, said she remembered seeing the victims’ bodies on the ground, one of which was not moving.

The victims were quickly surrounded by onlookers, who were “all panicking and really confused,” Paul Robalino ’12 said, explaining that no one realized what had happened.

Police and paramedics responded quickly, Ramirez said. Multiple witnesses said they saw a police officer perform CPR on one of the victims for 10 minutes.

Ramirez said the police told tailgaters to go to the other side of the lot if they wanted to enter the tailgate grounds, and asked onlookers to leave when they began to place the victims in ambulances.

“Some people were crying, some people were in such shock they didn’t move anywhere, but most people went to the other side to get into the tailgate,” Ramirez said.

After ambulances took the victims to the hospital, those at the tailgate were unsure what to do, Ho said, adding that many students did not feel comfortable continuing to party after the incident.

“Pretty immediately the cops came and they put yellow tape all around the area,” Robalino said. “For a while we were all like ‘This is really uncomfortable, we can’t keep drinking or eating because that would be really inappropriate.’”

But as conflicting reports of the incident spread among students and alumni, the tailgate continued throughout the morning largely uninterrupted. The music stopped after the crash, but as rumors spread that the injuries were not serious, the music and partying resumed, Robalino said.

In a Saturday afternoon statement, Yale spokesman Tom Conroy said the University “will be undertaking a full review of the policies and regulations relating to tail-gating before athletics events.”

“Our efforts now focus on providing any support needed to the members of our community and to our many guests from Cambridge and elsewhere,” Conroy wrote in the statement.

At the game, action halted and the crowd hushed at halftime as spectators in the Yale Bowl stopped for a moment of silence. The announcer, Mark Ryba, delivered a statement from the University confirming that one victim had died and two were injured in the crash, and offering condolences to those involved.


  • fhh2

    Very disturbing.. :-(

  • yay


  • lakia

    Yes indeed. Prayers and condolences to all of the families involved. A day of good fun, turned oh so tragic for some. My sincere sympathy.

  • mike4him

    Incredibly saddening. I guess you can say good bye to alcohol at the tailgates like Harvard did years ago.

    • River_Tam_Lover

      This is a terrible tragedy, and my heart goes out to the victim’s family. Though we can’t say conclusively yet that alcohol was to blame, it’s worth nothing that this happened before the tailgate really even started. Banning alcohol at the tailgates won’t stop certain people from drinking as soon as they wake up.

    • tm

      This is so sad. Prayers and condolences to all of the families involved. Tailgate was banned according to President Levine’s “Climate Report” and then it was reinstated…
      It is time to learn from Harvard.

    • yalie13

      This had absolutely nothing to do with alcohol. The student driving the vehicle was interviewed, breathalized, tested, etc and was confirmed to be completely sober.
      It must be so aggravating and traumatizing for the student to have to put up with this crap of people assuming guilt without any information to base it on.

      But hey, you shouldn’t take my word for it. That’d be hearsay. Don’t assume the contrary either though.

  • anon

    I’d like to commend the ydn for accurate reporting. It’s a relief in comparison to the alcohol -blaming language of mainstream reporting.

    • harvardsucks

      Absolutely; it’s awful to see the media insinuate that alcohol was a cause. From what I hear, the driver was completely sober. This is a tragic accident for everyone involved.

      • anonymouz


      • Ciarrai

        Imagine the nerve of anyone insinuating that alcohol was a cause. The thought that alcohol could even be the most remote cause is preposterous.

  • alum2001

    This is horribly sad, and my heart goes out to the victim and her family. Without knowing any further details, it sounds like a tragic accident.

    But this statement bothers me:

    “Yale spokesman Tom Conroy said the University ‘will be undertaking a full review of the policies and regulations relating to tail-gating before athletics events.'”

    I hope that Yale doesn’t use this as an excuse to ban tailgating, or ban U -Hauls, just because of one tragedy after all the decades that tailgating has happened for. You don’t ban flying just because of one plane crash.

    • anon

      But in your metaphor, you still do review the construction and the regulations related to the cause of the crash. I don’t have much faith in Yale’s ability to do that reasonably, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t do it.

  • anonymouz

    I hope Yale bans tailgating.

    • JE14

      Harvard troll, gtfo.

    • yalie13

      Oh yea, we should totally respond to a freak accident in a way that has absolutely no relevance to it. [sarcasm]

      Seriously though, if they blindly change or make tailgating rules more strict because of this, that would be another misfortune to add to this tragedy. This was plain and simply stochastic.

    • anonymouz

      They should also ban fraternities.

    • tm

      Or occupy tailgating.

      • yalie13

        They should just ban The Game because my lofty hindsight pedestal tells me that we obviously should have known better. I mean, people walking outside where there are cars and frat boys loose out there with rampaging uhauls? That’s just asking for an accident to happen.

  • MsMoneypenny

    Let’s wait until all the facts come out and not jump to conclusions. Tailgating has gone on for years without any incidents like this. Perhaps mechanical malfunction was to blame. Yalie13 and alum2001 make valid points.

  • thenomad14

    My heart goes out to her and her family.

  • connman250

    It”s not alcohol, it’s the bad drivers of Connecticut. You see them everwhere.

  • tm

    If there is no tailgate the bad drivers of Connecticut would never have chance to drive U-Haul truck filled with kegs of beer into the crowd. You do not see them everywhere, only at tailgate.

    • AB13

      The fact that the UHaul was filled with kegs has nothing to do with the crash. They in no way shape or form had any impact on the accident, and it is harmful to assume or suggest so.

    • lacking_class

      If there was no tailgate that particular U-Haul truck would have been somewhere else when it alllegedly experienced mechanical failure. This may have resulted in worse tragedy for all you know.

      I doubt the contents of the truck directly or indirectly contributed to its crash, especially considering the driver passed a field sobriety test.


  • tm

    There was loss of life. Sorry, tailgate has to go. Harvard had figured that out in 2008 before a loss of life. Let Yale-Harvard game never be such a regrettable event. So sad.

    • yale_senior

      I just think it’s time to ban cars, or really any structure that is more than 30% of the average human body mass – we need to create a society where accidents are impossible, and we all walk around in little bubbles to protect us from any sort of bodily harm.

      Honestly, I was at the tailgate, and was saddened to hear that this terrible accident happened. But I immediately knew that this horrible, but totally unintended accident would immediate serve as ammunition for those who have particular social agendas for how they want others to behave (i.e. people who don’t like tailgates or events where people party and drink alcohol). It makes me think of a tragic accident recently where my friend’s father was biking on a mountain-bike trail, when suddenly he got caught in a storm and a tree fell on him, killing him. What is to do in that situation, should we ban people from going into forests when there is a 30% chance of a thunderstorm? Should we only let people walk in trails that are (at least) fifty feet from the nearest tree? Of course these suggestions are ridiculous, but that is the point. Death can strike in the most unexpected of ways, but we should not curtail people’s freedom and happiness, in some quixotic quest to prevent all freak accidents.

      Again, my thoughts are with both Brenden, who must be besides himself, and of course the family of Nancy Barry, who lost a loved one in the most tragic and unexpected of circumstances.

  • H83

    Without diminishing the tragedy for these three women and their families, and for the driver (I suspect driver error with an unfamiliar vehicle, rather than the alleged mechanical failure — either way it wasn’t drunk or reckless) I’m with those worrying about the over-reactions that will cut back on tailgating.

    I’ve been tailgating for more than three decades, and enjoy the annual pre-Thanksgiving reunion and tradition. I’ve seen ever-greater restrictions, and it doesn’t seem to have added to safety, even before this year. In years past undergraduates and alumni mingled in Lot D or the Business School lot in Allston, and it was the adults, responsibly sharing their spreads, not wristbands, that kept order.

  • tm
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