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1 dead, 7 hurt in Conn. crash

March 7, 2009 6:49:14 PM PST
A man driving drunk and going the wrong way with his lights off early Saturday crashed head on into a van, killing a college student who was headed to Africa on a spring break medical aid mission, police said. The Connecticut College student, Elizabeth Durante, 20, was partially thrown from the van and died at the scene. The seven other students in the van, which was driving to an airport, were treated at local hospitals for injuries that didn't appear life-threatening, school spokeswoman Deborah MacDonnell said.

The wrong-way driver, Daniel Musser, slammed into the van around 3:45 a.m. while it was headed south on Interstate 395 in Montville, about 45 miles southeast of Hartford, police said.

Musser, of Groton, was arrested and faces charges including manslaughter with a motor vehicle and drunken driving, police said.

The 22-year-old was being held on $100,000 bond and was scheduled to appear in Norwich Superior Court on Monday, State Police Lt. J.

Paul Vance said.

A published telephone number for Musser's family couldn't immediately be found, and was unclear if he had an attorney.

Connecticut College President Leo I. Higdon Jr. called Durante, of West Islip, N.Y., "a student of enormous talent, commitment and compassion."

"Her passing is an incalculable loss to our community," Higdon said in a statement. "Our deepest sympathies are with Elizabeth's family and with her many friends on campus."

Durante and another student at Connecticut College, a private New London school with about 1,900 students, organized the trip to Kaberamaido, Uganda, as part of a medical mission with Asayo's Wish Foundation, a charity whose mission is to help suffering children.

The group of about 12 students was going to deliver medical supplies and help provide basic medical care to the village's residents.

Durante, a certified emergency medical technician, had been on a similar trip to South Africa in 2007, and it affected her so greatly that she organized her first trip to the Ugandan village last year, according to a December 2007 story on her by the college's public affairs office.

In the story, Durante said she hoped to become a surgeon, "something intense enough to fulfill the EMT adrenaline-junkie I know will always be inside of me."

"I love the connection with other human beings that medicine offers," Durante said. "No matter where they grew up, how old they are, how rich or poor - a patient is a patient."


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