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Tailgate Tragedy

The Yale-Harvard rivalry football game is an annual competitive event for students, alumni, and fans. Unfortunately, “The Game,” as it is known, will be remembered for a sudden death, but not as part of the game.

A fatal accident occurred on November 19, 2011when the driver of a U-Haul truck loaded with kegs of beer struck three women in a tailgating area before the game. Police said the driver suddenly accelerated as he made a turn in the parking lot striking the women, then hitting another U-Haul in the lot which struck a third U-Haul. One woman died from multiple blunt traumatic injuries and two others were injured; one of the injured women suffered serious injuries. It is unclear why the driver sped up, but alcohol does not appear to have played a role.

Tailgating – eating and drinking – at popular events has been around for years. They often consist of too many people, too many vehicles, and too much alcohol. Harvard banned U-Haul trucks, kegs, and hard liquor at tailgating parties last year, when “The Game” was played at Harvard. Six years ago, Yale began shutting down all parties after halftime in an effort to curb binge drinking and keep students and alumni safe. Now, the university said it plans to review its policies and regulations on tailgating before games.

Although police said the investigation will take some time, the incident has prompted speculation about the legal consequences of the accident. If a wrongful death lawsuit is filed, it is possible that any party – the driver of the U-Haul, the fraternity hosting the party, the owner of the U-Haul van, and Yale University – directly associated with the incident could be identified as a defendant. At the very least, hopefully this tragic accident will have all colleges and other sports teams seriously looking into policies and regulations to ensure that people are safe at tailgating events.

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