Wreck possibly alcohol related
Fatal collision may have been alcohol related; 700 attend memorial service
September 18, 2001
LARAMIE, Wyo. (AP) Alcohol may have been a factor in a collision that killed eight University of Wyoming student-athletes, or two-thirds of the cross country team, a state official said Monday.
However, Lisa Murphy, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Transportation, said the Wyoming Highway Patrol will offer no more details before the victims’ blood test results are released. That could take up to two weeks.
Another Transportation Department spokesperson, Bruce Burrows, also declined to speculate on the Highway Patrol’s suspicions.
”They kind of hold that close to the vest until some numbers come back,” he said. ”They don’t want to add to any of the terrible anguish that’s already out there.”
Some 700 people gathered Monday night in pouring rain near a 15-foot-high bronze sculpture of a bucking horse and rider that is similar to the University of Wyoming logo.
Large black-and-white photos of the victims leaned against one side of the sculpture.
Many students were crying, hugging and clutching bouquets as others in letterman’s jackets passed around candles.
Travis Halleman, 22, knew one of the victims, Kyle Johnson, 20, of Riverton. Both were engineering students who worked in a lab together.
”He seemed to think outside the lines. We had a lot of things in common, like he wasn’t sure he really wanted to go into engineering. He liked to run,” Halleman said.
”He was a pretty quiet guy, but once you got to know him he was really funny. We used to do Beavis and Butthead impressions together until our boss would come in and yell at us.”
There was a moment of silence before the eulogies began.
Coaches had been given the day off and athletes were given the option of attending class.
”Kids everywhere have had difficulty understanding this national tragedy and now you pack this on top of it,” UW athletic director Lee Moon said Monday.
On fraternity row, where rush season is in full swing, the Sigma Phi Epsilon house displayed a large banner over its entrance saying ”We Love You Shane” in memory of victim Shane Shatto, 19, of Douglas.
Shatto and his seven teammates were killed when their sport utility vehicle collided head-on with a pickup truck that apparently swerved into their lane at about 1:30 a.m. Sunday south of Laramie.
The driver of the pickup, fellow student Clinton Haskins, 21, of Maybell, Colo., improved Monday from serious to fair condition at Ivinson Memorial Hospital.
Haskins is a steer wrestler on the rodeo team. He was apparently heading from Laramie to his family’s home when the crash occurred, said Lt. Mike Johnson of the Wyoming Highway Patrol.
The runners were headed for Laramie after having spent Saturday in Fort Collins, Colo.
The wreck occurred in the northbound lane about 17 miles south of Laramie on U.S. 287.
Haskins and the two occupying the front seats of the SUV were wearing seat belts, Murphy said.
The person sitting in the SUV’s front passenger seat was thrown despite wearing a seat belt, she said.
”The force was so great the seat belt was actually broken,” Murphy said.
The other six SUV passengers also were ejected. All the SUV occupants died at the scene.
Besides Kyle Johnson and Shatto, the others killed were Nicholas J. Schabron, 20, of Laramie; Justin Lambert-Belanger, 20, of Timmins, Ontario; Kevin L. Salverson, 19, of Cheyenne; Joshua D. Jones, 22, of Laramie; Morgan McLeland, 21, of Gillette; and Cody B. Brown, 21, of Hudson, Colo.
Sunday night, members of football, basketball and other teams met with counselors and UW officials in various meeting rooms at the UW sports arena. Some athletes sought additional counseling.
”It’s hard to put it into words, there are some kids that are absolutely scared to death,” Moon said. ”There’s some that simply don’t understand. They can’t understand.”
The deaths have disqualified the men’s track team from competing because only four runners are left, he said. The university will decide whether to recruit more runners or cancel the season. The team needs five runners under NCAA rules, Moon said.