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Holy Cross Student Killed, 11 Injured When Rowing Team's Van Crashes In Florida

VERO BEACH, Florida (CBS) – One member of the College of the Holy Cross women's rowing team, described as "a light to all who knew her" was killed in a crash in Florida that injured 11 other people, including other team members Wednesday morning. The college identified the team member killed in the crash as sophomore Grace Rett.

It happened around 7:30 a.m. in Vero Beach when a team van collided with a pickup truck at an intersection.

The Holy Cross van after the crash in Vero Beach, Florida, January 15, 2020. (Image credit: WPEC-TV)

The Vero Beach Fire Department said three people were taken to the hospital by helicopter. Four people were taken by ambulance and four others were transported as a precaution.

The van, which was carrying the Holy Cross rowers, and the pickup truck were both heavily damaged in the crash.

A Holy Cross spokesman confirmed Rett, an Uxbridge resident, was killed.

Grace Rett. (Image Credit: Holy Cross)

Rett was majoring in English and psychology. She set a world record for indoor rowing by completing 62 hours straight on an erg machine last month.

"Our community has suffered a tragic loss. I extend my deepest condolences to Grace's family, members of the women's rowing team and their coaches, and all who loved Grace," said college President Rev. Philip L. Boroughs, S.J. in a prepared statement. "In our grief, we pray that the healing power of the love of Christ will touch their hearts and provide some peace. I ask that all members of the community support one another at this time and pray for the healing of those involved in the accident."

Police said it appears the van driver, who was confirmed Thursday to have been the team's coach, may have failed to yield, causing the crash.

Rett had just celebrated her 20th birthday on Tuesday.

The Holy Cross van collided with this pickup truck driven by Ronald Wolf in Vero Beach, Florida, January 15, 2020. (Image credit: WPEC-TV)

David Currey, Vero Beach Police Chief, said it is especially difficult responding to a crash scene like this when younger victims are involved.

"It hits home any time we deal with things like that," said Currey. "We have newer officers, younger officers that have younger children. When we deal with things where younger children are victims, it hit home. We're a family here. We're people. It's real, and it's terrible. It's a tragic event and it's unfortunate. But it's real."

Three team members remain in critical condition.

A second Holy Cross van was traveling behind the other vehicle from the college but was not involved in the crash.

Dean of Students Michele Murray said the reaction on campus was "utter shock and disbelief." She said the school is now focused on supporting Rett's teammates, many of whom were also involved in the crash. "I want them to know they are coming home."

Holy Cross sophomore Damon Hart said Rett was his resident assistant and he often saw her around campus.

"She was a nice girl, people were always around her, she had a lot of friends. It's just sad," he said. "Hopefully we'll figure out what to do with this. I can't imagine what her family is going through."

"We have thoughts and prayers for the family," said a member of the college's lacrosse team. "It's a huge tragedy. I know everyone on the lacrosse team is looking out for them."

"Today, our community is faced with unimaginable tragedy and devastating loss. Everyone who knew Grace was touched by her warm heart, tenacious work ethic and inspirational drive," said Holy Cross Athletic Director Marcus Blossom in a prepared statement. "Our entire Holy Cross community is mourning today, and our focus is on supporting our Crusader students, families, faculty and staff, both here and in Florida. Our prayers are with Grace's family and all those injured in today's events. We ask for everyone's thoughts and prayers."

Condolences poured in from the Worcester community as news of the tragedy broke. City Manager Edward Augustus, Jr. tweeted, "The City of Worcester offers its support and heartfelt condolences to the Rev. Philip L. Burroughs and all those in the College of the Holy Cross extended community on today's tragic accident in Florida. Our thoughts are especially with the families of the women's rowing team during this very difficult time."

District Attorney Joseph Early said in a tweet, "We'd like to extend our condolences to the Holy Cross community and the family and friends of Grace Rett, a member of the women's rowing team who lost her life today in a crash in Florida."

Murray said Rett's family, Boroughs, Blossom and representatives from College's Office of College Chaplainswere were on their way to Florida on Wednesday.

"It's impossible to understand, or to try to understand, how tragedies happen," Murray said.

A memorial service is planned for next week.

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