The Huntsville Item, Huntsville, TX

Local News

December 14, 2013

SHSU mourns loss of three students

HUNTSVILLE — Three students are dead and one was transported to the Huntsville Memorial Hospital after an early morning, single-car crash on the Sam Houston State University campus.

The cause of the accident, at the intersection Bowers Boulevard and Avenue I in between AB IV and the Spivey House,  remains under investigation, but university police officials say speed was apparently a factor, according to a KHOU-Houston report.

The University Police Department received a call reporting the accident at around 4:50 a.m. Saturday, hours before SHSU would hold commencement ceremonies at the Coliseum, a block from the fatal accident site, SHSU spokeswoman Julia May said.

The students who were killed in the crash have been identified as Blanca Espinal, 19, of Houston; Eric Torres, 22, of San Juan; as well as Alfonso Mata Jr., 20, of Brownsville. SHSU earlier Saturday released the wrong name of the third student killed in the accident, later identified as Mata.

Thomas Roling, 23, of The Woodlands, was taken to Huntsville Memorial Hospital. Roling, an international student from Germany, was transferred to the St. Joseph Medical Center in Bryan. Roling’s condition and a description of his injuries was unavailable by press time.

University records list Espinal as a freshman psychology major; Torres as a senior economics and international business major; Mata as a freshman criminal justice major; and Roling as a sophomore international business major.

 SHSU President Dana Gibson reacted to the accident with shock and grief.

 “Our Bearkat family is deeply saddened by the loss of our students in this tragic accident. Our hearts go out to their family and friends during this difficult time.”

The emergency notification system KatSafe sent out an alert to the university community at around 8 a.m. Saturday  that said, “A vehicular accident with fatalities has occurred on the SHSU campus. The (intersection of) South Ave. I and the Bowers Blvd. entrances have been closed until further notice. Graduation ceremonies and ACT Testing will take place as scheduled. Please check the website for further updates.”

SHSU initially reported that student Roberto Rodriguez Guerra had been killed in the car accident. But Rodriguez’s family members posted on website of The Houstonian, SHSU’s student newspaper, that he was alive and not involved in the accident.

Rodriguez later posted to Twitter (@_bobweiser) around 2:50 p.m. that we was OK.

“I’m alive people,” he posted. “Thanks to everyone who called.”

SHSU records show that there are two students with the name Roberto Rodriguez. UPD has been notified of the mistake.

Jay R. Jordan, a student reporter for the  Houstonian, was the first reporter on the scene after the alert went out.

“I got there around 8:20 a.m. and saw police blocking the road,” he said. “At first I thought that all of the police cars were for graduation, then I thought about whether this would affect graduation.”

He said the wreckage had already been removed and the road blocked off.

“The car wasn’t there anymore, but it had ripped light poles and handrails out of the ground,” Jordan said. “AB IV had some damage from where the car obviously hit the building.”

A photo reportedly of the crash shows a blue car leaning against Academic Building IV upside down with debris littering the ground in front of it. Fire and EMT rescue crews were called out to the scene as well.

Graduation ceremonies continued as planned. SHSU’s official Twitter account notified people that the intersection was closed. However, the debris was cleared and the intersection was reopened by the end of the day. The section of the road leading to the College of Humanities and Social Sciences building remains closed while DPS officers investigate.

University students took to Twitter since being notified of the accident as a way to mourn and check in with friends.

“The support everyone is giving to the three who lost their lives and their families makes me love my campus even more #shsu,” Twitter user Shelby Moore (@More_Sh3lby) posted.

“It amazes me how a university can come together to honor the three lives that were lost. Thoughts and prayers to the families and friends,” another use Dustin Johnson (@dtjohnson90) posted.

“Sending our prayers out to the 3 families who lost their loved ones in a car accident this morning. #SHSU #BearkatNation,” SHSU Spirit Programs (@SHSUSpirit) tweeted.

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