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BREAKING NEWS: Senior killed in car crash

Kate Antonacci | Saturday, November 11, 2006

A Notre Dame senior was killed in a car crash early Friday morning on Indiana State Toll Road near LaPorte, Ind., officials said.Caitlin Brann, 22, was headed west on Interstate 80-90 at 2:13 a.m. EST Friday when her rear passenger-side tire blew out, causing her to lose control of her 2000 Chevrolet Cavalier convertible, according to an Indiana State Police report. Brann, a marketing major from Orland, Park, Ill., entered the median sideways, just past mile marker 41.2. Her car rolled numerous times before becoming airborne and sideswiping the trailer of a semi-truck headed east, said LaPorte County Chief Deputy Coroner John Sullivan, who was on the scene. Brann’s vehicle came to rest upside down.”She either hit a piece of metal in the road or just plain had a blowout,” Sullivan said Saturday. “Even though she did have her seatbelt on, it was what we call a ‘non-survivable’ type of crash.”Brann was brought to LaPorte Hospital, but was declared dead on the scene of the accident by Sullivan due to “massive head injuries.” A soft-top convertible like Brann’s, Sullivan said, lacks structural integrity compared to a “four-door sedan that would have an actual hard top and steel pillars and a steel roof.””[Such convertibles] just have steel cross-members and a vinyl covering for the actual roof. So in a roll-over accident you do not have near the protection or structural integrity,” he said.The Westville Fire Department assisted police on the scene.Alcohol was also a factor in the crash, he said. It is illegal to operate a vehicle in Indiana with a blood alcohol level of anything over .08 percent, Sullivan said, putting Brann – whose tests showed a .249 percent blood alcohol level – three times above the legal limit.”We even ran the tests twice because we didn’t smell [alcohol] on the scene,” Sullivan said.Sullivan said he has “no reason” to think that Brann was driving faster than the legal speed limit, which on the Indiana Toll Road is 65 miles per hour. While Corporal Michael Young of District 21 Indiana State Police told The Observer Friday that another person was in Brann’s vehicle, Sergeant Keith Kopinski said Saturday that there is “no information about another person in the car.””I have never heard of a mention of another person,” Kopinski said, citing possible misreading of the police report by Young on Friday.Sullivan said someone reported the crash as a “two victim accident, so they had a helicopter coming from South Bend initially.”Indiana State Police Trooper Ryan Starnes was the first on the scene, after receiving word about the accident from a 2:14 a.m. 911 call, according to the police report.The Observer could not reach Starnes Saturday afternoon.The driver of the truck, Sean D. Garber, 38, was not injured, the police report said.The eastbound lanes of I-80 were shut down for about three hours, Sullivan said, adding that traffic was not “heavy.”The University received word about the crash approximately two and a half hours after it occurred.”After receiving the news this morning at 4:45 a.m., I spoke with Caitlin’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. John Brann, and offered the condolences of the University community as well as any assistance we can provide at this very difficult time,” Vice President for Student Affairs Father Mark Poorman said in an e-mail Friday morning received by The Observer. “I also visited Caitlin’s friends in [her residence] Clover Ridge apartment complex and shared this very sad news with them.”Assistant Vice President for News and Information Dennis Brown said Student Affairs notified the rector of Pasquerilla East Hall, Bryan Tornifolio, immediately and that “they’ve been working together all day.””Because Caitlin resided in Pasquerilla East for three years, we are anticipating that her death will be very upsetting for that community,” Poorman said. The University will continue to provide assistance, he said.”On behalf of the entire Notre Dame community, I want to express our shock and deep sorrow at the passing of Caitlin Brann,” University President Father John Jenkins said in a University statement released Friday. “We offer heartfelt condolences to her parents, her sister and her brother. Death is never easy to contemplate. It is harder still when the one who dies is as bright and vital and full of promise as Caitlin was. She and her family will remain in our hearts, and in our prayers.”A Mass was held Friday evening at Pasquerilla East.A wake will be held Sunday at Sheehy & Sons Funeral Home in Orland Park from 2 p.m. to 9. A funeral Mass will be said at 10 a.m. Monday at St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic Church, also in Orland Park.Plans for a campus memorial service are pending, the University statement said.