Family and the UConn community are mourning the deaths of two sophomores after a tractor-trailer and passenger car collided late Friday afternoon on Route 66 in Columbia, killing two teenagers and injuring two others.
Alana Ferrante, 19, of South Windsor, and Ryan Meegan, 19, of Ridgefield, both UConn sophomores, died in the fatal accident. Ferrante was a pre-kinesiology major who had just transferred from Central Connecticut State University.
Meegan was a pre-teaching major. He mentored through UConn's First Year Experience program and competed in soccer and rugby on campus.
"On Friday our rugby team didn't just lose a player but a brother. It's hard to talk about Ryan without bringing up his sense of humor and his upbeat personality," the UConn rugby team said in a statement. "No matter the situation he always managed to find a way to smile and that smile was contagious. Whether we had a long fitness session or a tough loss he always knew how to lift the team's spirit. He was a hardworking, eager, and committed player and a great friend. He was coaches' and players' ideal teammate ..qualities not found too often nowadays. This was an incredibly tragic accident but our team will always remember Ryan and honor his memory. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Ryan's friends and family in this difficult time."
The team announced his passing on Facebook, calling Meegan a "bright, talented, and hardworking young man who could make anyone smile. It's hard to believe you were taken from us this soon, you will be missed. #RIP Ryan."
UConn spokesperson Stephanie Reitz said that they both "epitomized the very best of UConn."
"Our deepest sympathies go out to their friends and families," Reitz said in a written statement. "We hope they receive a measure of comfort in knowing Ryan and Alana were held in the highest regard by all who knew them here on campus."
Police said the crash happened around 4:11 p.m. Friday on Route 66 at the intersection of West Street in Columbia near the Hebron town line. The tractor trailer, driven by 48-year-old Adolfo Lopez, of Hartford, was traveling east on Route 66 while a Toyota Camry, driven by 19-year-old Hannah Schmidt of Hebron, was traveling south on West Street. The tractor trailer collided with the right side of the Camry as the car entered the intersection. Both vehicles continued across the road and crashed into a utility pole on the right eastbound shoulder of Route 66.
Two passengers in the Camry, identified as Ferrante and Meegan, died at the scene. Schmidt was transported to Windham hospital by Columbia Fire/EMS, and was later transferred to Hartford Hospital via LifeStar helicopter for treatment of serious injuries. Lopez was transported to Windham Hospital with minor injuries.
Ferrante's brother, Justin Ferrante launched a www.funeralfund.com campaign to raise money to give his sister a proper funeral and burial.
"I lost the most influential and important person in my life. I was less than 3 years old when I first met my sister. I was obsessed and spent all my time around her," her brother wrote on the fundraising page. "Both of our lives were etched and fueled by one another.... I know I was a large influence in emotional and spiritual guidance as I was always the one to go against the current but she was the one that excelled with it. She would sing and hum tunes everyday, then express herself in the most upbeat and enthusiastic way (this sometimes meant screaming that she was going to be late and can’t find what she was looking for.).... But she was always looking out for me and motivating me to take on new hobbies and ideas. She’s the one that I look to for an opinion above all others. Whenever I had to get a new haircut or needed a new wardrobe she was the only one I trusted with the final say. I asked her opinion on almost everything that crossed my mind as if it was the only way to know for sure."
Her brother wrote about how he got on a hiking kick and Alana wanted to share his passion together. She came up with the idea to go on a big hiking trip together and they did so two months ago, her brother said, calling it "the best trip I have ever been on." They planned to set aside a week annually to do something fun like that together.
"We grew even closer in the past few months than we had a good while and I am so grateful of that that words can’t not express how feel right now," her brother wrote on the fundraising page. "I have no idea what this means for my future as she was always part of my main focus towards life. I didn’t care what I meant to the rest of the world, all that mattered was that I could share it with her. She was my twin in spirit."
The goal is to fundraise $10,000 and people have collectively already donated $5,025.
"I simply cannot fathom giving my sister, Alana anything but the best burial and ceremony that we can manage to pull off so that her memory can forever be remembered and accessible," her brother said. ".... She was my only Sister and My Father and Mother’s only daughter."
Ferrante was also involved in the CT Volleyball Academy.
"The CTVA family is devastated and grief stricken," the volleyball academy posted on Facebook. "Our thoughts, prayers and love go out to the Ferrante family. You will be so missed!"
Another UConn student, whose name the university didn't release, was one of the two others injured in the crash.
"We also extend our support and concern for a third UConn student who was injured in the same collision," Reitz said. "While we cannot discuss specifics of the individual's condition out of respect for the student's privacy, the University is united in its hope for a swift and full recovery."
UConn is offering counseling services for those who knew Ferrante and Meegan and need support.
"As in all such cases, UConn immediately reached out to friends and others on campus who knew Alana and Ryan, and encourage anyone who needs assistance to contact Counseling and Mental Health Services for confidential help in dealing with this difficult news," Reitz said. "A team of professionals from throughout the University are discussing ways to help our students, faculty and staff, and others in whatever ways may be necessary."
Footage from the scene showed the entire back wall of the tractor-trailer was sheared off. Route 66 was closed between West Street in Columbia and Loveland Road in Hebron while police investigated.
Crews from Windham, Columbia, and Hebron all responded to the scene, along with Connecticut State Police and the Department of Transportation. Crews from Eversource and Frontier also responded to clear power lines that came down during the crash.
State police are investigating and another with information is asked to contact TFC Marsh at Troop K at (860) 465-5400.