When David Eastlick, executive director of the national Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity, heard about the accident that killed four members of its Yale chapter Jan. 17, he got on the next plane to New Haven.
“This is just the worst thing that has ever happened,” Eastlick said. “In 20 years, I’ve never seen anything this devastating, with four dead.”
Since the accident, the Yale community and DKE members across the country have helped the Yale DKE brothers cope with the tragedy, offering financial and emotional support.
DKE President Nick Sinatra ’03 said Eastlick helped with many logistical details in the days after the crash.
“He came to the hospitals. We came as a group to talk to the parents,” Sinatra said. “It was a nice gesture of support for the families.”
Donations from DKE members across the country paid for a bus to the funeral of Nick Grass ’05 and covered the cost of the dinners that DKE held every night the week of the accident.
“The financial component was acknowledged and then quickly set aside,” said DKE alumnus Chris Plunkett ’89, who helped coordinate the fraternity’s efforts. “These guys can write a check but they also know they need to do more.”
DKE members since 1980 will be invited to Yale for two weekends in February to provide personal support to the current members, Plunkett said.
“The reason we’re doing it is to show solidarity,” Plunkett said. “It’s hockey, it’s basketball, it’s pizza, it’s beer, it’s just hanging out.”
Plans for the weekends include buying 50 tickets for a Yale hockey game and setting aside time for the former members to reminisce about their time at Yale. Plunkett said he has also been talking with Chris Dudley ’87, center for the Portland Trail Blazers, about getting basketball tickets.
DKE’s long-term plans include a plaque in the Rose Alumni House, DKE’s former house, and a scholarship honoring the four students who died.
Plans are also in the works to provide financial assistance to Eric Wenzel ’03 and Brett Smith ’06, who were injured in the crash and remain in the hospital.
“There could be long-term medical care problems,” Eastlick said. “Hopefully, this will help.”
The Yale administration has also been involved in dealing with the tragedy, sending bereavement counselors to the DKE house. Yale College Dean Richard Brodhead and Dean of Student Affairs Betty Trachtenberg spoke to Eastlick about how to deal with the tragedy.
“Every office, every support service, all were immediately alerted,” Trachtenberg said. “We had [personnel] mobilized around the clock.”
Yale students, especially those on sports teams, offered support to the fraternity as well, Sinatra said.
“I’ve received all kinds of flowers and condolences,” Sinatra said. “The Yale softball girls baked some cookies for us.”
Plunkett said the support DKE has received can carry a pain of its own.
“A lot of guys aren’t big fans [of fraternities], and going from campus outcasts to campus victims — can be draining,” Plunkett said.
The accident — which killed Grass, Kyle Burnat ’05, Andrew Dwyer ’05 and Sean Fenton ’04 — occurred when the students were returning from a DKE pledge event in New York City. In the wake of the tragedy, DKE cancelled the remainder of its pledge activities for this year.
“The reason we have the pledge process is to bring those guys together as a class,” Sinatra said. “The accident has brought us much closer than any pledge process.”