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Tragedy strikes Butler and Erie with loss of promising young woman

The tragedy in Erie where a Butler native died at Gannon University has left two communities in shock and a host of questions for friends and family of the 21-year-old nursing student. The news out of Erie this week has left many people in our region dumbfounded and left parents throughout the country worried sick about their sons and daughters who are in college or getting ready to matriculate in the fall.

The young woman was at a party at an apartment near Gannon's campus with other college students on Friday night. Police report that a group of students found the girl around 4 p.m. the following day and that she eventually died at UPMC Hamot from what the coroner said are symptoms concurrent with hypothermia. 

One of the students told reporters he and his friends ran toward her as she was lying in a position that looked as if she was "thrown or left there." He also said that he and his friends had walked through the parking lot next to where she was found several times that day and hadn't noticed her prior to that, assuming that she was recently left there.  

The young woman is remembered as magnanimously charitable, raising more than $7000 as a senior project in high school at Seneca Valley for a young girl who suffered from a rare disease and needed the money for a special kind of canine companion to help her through her daily tasks. She was also a member of the Sigma Sigma Sigma Sorority at Gannon where fellow members say that she was avidly involved in fundraising and community service.

Toxicology reports for the young woman will be available in a few weeks and may shed a better light on what exactly happened, but it may also lead to a meticulous investigation by police who are already trying to go off leads from what her finders have said and why she left the party without her coat or purse. The police have labeled the case as "suspicious" for now, but as more details pour in over the next few weeks, everyone is hopeful that a better light will be shone on what exactly happened and how it could have been prevented. 

This is yet another reminder of the responsibility that homeowners and bar owners have to their guests. Over-serving and allowing patrons or guests to get inebriated, then not acknowledging some kind of responsibility is negligent can turn an enjoyable evening into a senseless tragedy such as this. 

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