20-Year-Old Rower Who Died in Florida Van Crash Remembered as a 'Light to All Who Knew Her'

Joelle Goldstein
20-Year-Old Rower Who Died in Florida Van Crash Remembered as a 'Light to All Who Knew Her'

The College of the Holy Cross community is mourning one of its accomplished rowers after she died in a Florida car accident while on a winter training trip with her team.

Sophomore and student-athlete Grace Rett was the only victim in the Vero Beach crash early Wednesday morning, the College of the Holy Cross confirmed in a press release.

The 20-year-old Uxbridge, Massachusetts native was the front right passenger in a team transport van when it collided with a Dodge pickup truck just before 7:30 a.m. local time, a spokesperson for the Vero Beach Police Department said at a press conference.

Rett, who was majoring in English and psychology and had celebrated her 20th birthday on Tuesday, was reportedly in cardiac arrest after the crash, according to Boston news station WHDH. She was pronounced dead at the scene.

In the wake of the devastating news, Holy Cross President Rev. Philip L. Boroughs and Athletics Director Marcus Blossom issued statements to the campus community in which they expressed their condolences and remembered Rett for her “warm heart.”

“Today, our community is faced with unimaginable tragedy and devastating loss. Everyone who knew Grace was touched by her warm heart, tenacious work ethic, and inspirational drive,” Blossom said. “Our entire Holy Cross community is mourning today, and our focus is on supporting our Crusader students, families, faculty and staff, both here and in Florida.”

Grace Rett | Facebook

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“Our prayers are with Grace’s family and all those injured in today’s events,” Blossom continued. “We ask for everyone’s thoughts and prayers.”

Added Boroughs: “Our community has suffered a tragic loss. I extend my deepest condolences to Grace’s family, members of the women’s rowing team and their coaches, and all who loved Grace.”

Dean of Students Michele Murray also spoke to Rett’s character and talent at a press conference Wednesday, noting that the student-athlete set a world record for her age group, rowing 237.55 miles in 62 straight hours.

“Grace was a light to all who knew her. She was incredibly passionate and hardworking,” she said. “Many of you will have seen evidence of that because she just set the world record for continuous erging.”

“This was a terrible loss for our community,” Murray added. “This is a terrible shock … My thoughts are really with Grace’s family and with her teammates.”

In addition to her personality and athleticism, Rett was remembered by her St. Mary’s Parish Pastor Nick Desimone 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 told WHDH. “She was doing what she loved to do. She was a world-record setter in rowing. Grace just had one of those personalities that was attractive, fun-loving and creative.”

Rett previously attended Marianapolis Preparatory, a Catholic high school in Thompson, Connecticut, before enrolling at Holy Cross, according to her Facebook.

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The fatal incident occurred at Barber Bridge and Indian River Boulevard, with preliminary reports indicating that the truck was headed northbound and the van southbound ⁠— both with green lights ⁠— when the van turned in front of the truck.

Twenty members of the rowing team were traveling together and were dispersed among two different vans, police said. The van involved with the crash was carrying 12 people — the college’s head rowing coach and 11 team members.

All 12 reportedly had to be pulled from the crushed van and were transported to nearby hospitals, along with the pickup truck driver, according to WHDH. Seven victims were suffering from “trauma-level” injuries, the outlet stated.

As of Thursday morning, officials reportedly told WHDH that six crew members, the head coach, and the pickup driver remained in the hospital, while four others had been treated and released.

No charges have yet been filed, and alcohol is not considered to be a factor, police said on Wednesday.