Purple ribbons show love, respect for victims in deadly crash


VERO BEACH — Police wrapped purple ribbons around light poles on the Merrill P. Barber Bridge Friday to show respect for families of those impacted by Wednesday’s deadly crash.

The head-on collision, involving a silver team transit van and a red Dodge pickup, killed 20-year-old rowing team member Grace Rett, of Uxbridge, Massachusetts. Vero Beach police attached a teddy bear to one of the light poles to remember Rett, a sophomore at College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts.

“This represents our solidarity and support for the families of College of the Holy Cross Rowing Team during their time of sorrow and hurt,” Vero Beach police spokesman Master Officer Darrell Rivers told Vero News. “We also want to keep the driver of the truck in our prayers as well and are praying for his speedy recovery. We are Holy Cross Strong.”

A community vigil, organized by local rowing team organizations, is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Sunday at Veteran’s Memorial Island in Riverside Park. Rabbi Michael Birnholz, Father Richard Murphy and other leaders of the Interfaith Community Partnership were expected to speak.

Rett, a promising student-athlete, was in town with her rowing team for winter training. She had just celebrated her birthday one day before the horrific crash.

The collision left eight others seriously injured, including other rowing team members and a coach who was driving the van. The unidentified pickup driver was also seriously hurt.

One person was released from Lawnwood Regional Medical Center & Heart Institute in Fort Pierce late Thursday, the hospital’s Public Relations Director Tiffany Woods said.

On Friday, College of the Holy Cross identified the person released as rowing team member and senior Maegan Moriarty. The women’s rowing team – known as the Holy Cross Crusaders – attend the college.

The college said five students and a coach remained in the hospital. One of those patients was expected to be released sometime Saturday, Woods said.

The driver of the pickup also remains hospitalized. The identities of those still hospitalized have not been released.

The Holy Cross Crusaders team arrived in town Tuesday and were expected to stay a week to practice with the Vero Beach Rowing Club on the Indian River Lagoon, club officials said.

Two team vans, carrying about 20 people total, were traveling at 7:30 a.m. southbound on Indian River Boulevard. The first van, carrying Rett in the front-right passenger seat, turned left to get to the bridge when it drove into the path of an oncoming red pickup, police said.

The northbound pickup struck the van on its front right side. The impact crushed the front of the van, along with the front of the truck.

Paramedics arrived within moments. Rett, who was wearing a seat belt at the time of the crash, was also taken to a hospital, where she was pronounced dead, police said.

Police said the traffic signals on both sides of the street had green lights. The traffic light where the van was traveling did not have a green left turn arrow, officers said.

Officers closed lanes on the bridge and Indian River Boulevard for several hours. The crash left Rett’s classmates and peers at College of the Holy Cross in shock.

The college’s men’s rowing team set up a GoFundMe fundraising page the day of the crash. The page had more than $220,000 in donations by Saturday afternoon.

Donations will go toward medical bills for those injured and toward Rett’s funeral expenses.

Visitation hours will be held from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday at St. Mary’s Church, 77 Mendon Street, Uxbridge. A mass celebrating Rett’s life will be held at 10 a.m. Wednesday at the church.

Photos provided by Vero Beach Police Department


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