WORCESTER, MASS. (WHDH) – A member of the Holy Cross women’s rowing team who was killed Wednesday in a crash in Vero Beach, Florida, was a “light to all who knew her,” Dean of Students Michele Murray said through tears Wednesday.
Grace Rett, a 20-year-old sophomore from Uxbridge, was killed after a van she was riding in with her crewmates collided head-on with a red Dodge Ram pickup truck near the Barber Bridge around 7:30 a.m., according to an Indian River Fire County Rescue spokesperson.
The college’s head rowing coach and 10 of Rett’s teammates had to be pulled from the wreckage. They were all taken to area hospitals with various ailments, including seven victims who suffered “trauma-level” injuries. The pickup driver was also hospitalized.
Rett, who was in cardiac arrest following the crash, was pronounced dead at the scene.
Four individuals have since been treated and released from the hospital. The names of everyone else involved in the crash have not been released.
Murray says the rowing team was in Vero Beach for winter training in advance of their competitive season.
“Grace was a light to all who knew her. She was incredibly passionate and hardworking,” Murray told reporters at an afternoon press conference in Worcester. “Many of you would have seen evidence of that because she just set the world record for continuous erging.”
Rett set the world record for indoor rowing for her age group by rowing 237.55 miles in 62 hours.
Vero Beach Police Chief David E. Currey said Rett had just turned 20 years old on Tuesday.
“This was a terrible loss for our community,” Murray said as students started gathering at the campus athletic center to grieve the unspeakable loss. “This was a terrible shock. My thoughts are really with Grace’s family and with her teammates.”
A preliminary investigation suggests the two vehicles were traveling in opposite directions when the collision occurred. Currey said that the van was hit as it was turning and that both vehicles had green lights.
Murray says the college community is “incredibly grateful for the outpouring of love and support.”
Rett’s family is on the way to Florida, along with a number of school officials, Murray added.
The family’s pastor rushed to be with Rett’s mother, who works as a music teacher in Worcester, after she learned of her daughter’s death.
Pastor Nick Desimone, of St. Mary’s Parish, described Rett as a person of “deep and abiding faith.”
“She was really an example for other young people regarding faith, family, and all of those great qualities that she possessed,” Desimone added.
Desimone says Rett came from a home where religion was important. She went to a Catholic elementary school and high school before attending Holy Cross.
“She was doing what she loved to do. She was a world-record setter in rowing,” Desimone said. “Grace just had one of those personalities that was attractive, funloving and creative.”
Rett leaves behind her parents and a young sister who she was best friends with, according to Desimone.
The crash remains under investigation.