Three students from James Madison University died and two of their classmates were critically injured when their vehicle veered off a West Virginia road and struck a tree, authorities said Friday.
The single-vehicle crash occurred around 10:30 p.m. Thursday on Route 259 near the Virginia line, according to the Hardy County sheriff’s office. Road conditions were dry, the sky was clear and there were no skid marks or signs of a collision with another vehicle or animal, the sheriff’s office said.
The driver and another passenger were flown to a hospital for treatment, while the other three passengers died at the scene. All were 19-year-old men, the sheriff’s office said.
The university identified those who died as John “Luke” Fergusson, a sophomore from Richmond, majoring in media arts and design; Nicholas Troutman, a sophomore from Richmond, majoring in business management; and Joshua Mardis, a sophomore from Williamsburg, Va., majoring in communication studies.
The sheriff’s office said the students had visited a club in the area earlier in the evening. It appeared they were driving southbound, back to the university, at the time of the crash.
“The loss our community has felt today is unthinkable,” JMU President Jonathan Alger and other university officials said in a statement Friday afternoon. “We share our sincere condolences to our university community as a whole, but specifically to the families, friends and others with close connections to the students we’ve lost.
“In these moments of significant grief, it is more important than ever to support and care for one another. Kindness, understanding and hope are things we all need to give and receive in the coming days and weeks ahead.”
They added: “These three young men will always be remembered as Dukes and will forever be in our hearts.”
JMU is a public university in Harrisonburg, Va., in the Shenandoah Valley, with about 20,000 undergraduates and more than 2,000 graduate students.