A car accident took the life of a Duke student early Thursday morning.
Senior Matthew Grape died in a single-car accident near the intersection of Academy Road and Duke University Road at 2:40 a.m. Thursday, according to a release from Durham Police Department. Grape was riding in the passenger seat of a Chevrolet Equinox when the car veered off Academy Road and struck a tree before rolling down an embankment and landing on its roof. Grape was pronounced dead on the scene. No other passengers were in the car.
The car’s driver, senior Lee Royster, was taken to Duke University Hospital to be treated for minor injuries and was released later Thursday morning, Vice President of Student Affairs Larry Moneta wrote in an email to The Chronicle Thursday.
“Those who knew Matt are overwhelmed with sadness,” Dean of Students Sue Wasiolek said. “There are many students who are grieving. I understand that there are also some staff and faculty who are experiencing significant sadness.”
Durham Police were notified of the accident via the OnStar system in the car, DPD Public Information Officer Kammie Michael wrote in an email Thursday.
Investigators have cited Royster for driving while impaired, Michael said. Speed was also a factor. Royster did not pay a fine or spend time in police custody. Royster’s blood alcohol content at the time of the accident is unknown, as results from Royster’s blood test are not yet available.
Moneta notified the student body of Grape’s death in an email sent at approximately 9:30 a.m. Thursday.
A remembrance for Grape held Thursday afternoon drew an overflow crowd, Wasiolek said. A campus memorial service has been discussed but definitive plans have not been set.
Members of Grape and Royster’s fraternity expressed their grief in a joint statement to The Chronicle.
“The brothers of Alpha Delta Phi deeply mourn the loss of our close friend and brother Matthew Grape. Matt was a bright, compassionate, incredibly loyal man and will be missed not only by us but by his many friends in the Duke community,” they said. “His death is a shocking tragedy, and we send our prayers and condolences to Matt’s family for their loss.”
Visitation for mourners will take place from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday at Doherty Funeral Home in Grape’s hometown of Wellesley, Mass., Wasiolek said. The funeral service has been scheduled for 11 a.m. Monday at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Wellesley.
The circumstances leading to the accident remain unknown and a police report has not yet been issued, Michael noted. The section of Academy Road between Duke University Road and Cranford Road was closed Thursday while officers conducted an investigation of the area.
Royster is scheduled to appear in Durham County District Court Oct. 19, regarding the DWI charge, Michael said.
”Royster is facing additional pending charges,” she said.
Editor's Note: The Chronicle will accept letters to the editor remembering Matthew. Submissions must be under 500 words and must be submitted by this Sunday at noon to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your name and affiliation with Duke. Next week The Chronicle will write an obituary honoring Matthew’s memory. Our thoughts are with his family and friends during this difficult time.