Four University of South Florida Students Killed in Crash

Dammie Yesudhas (top left), Jobin Kuriakose (top right), Imtiyaz (Jim) Ilias (bottom left), and Ankeet Patel of Sigma Beta Rho died in Florida after a SUV crashed into their Hyundai Sonata. (Facebook photos)

Dammie Yesudhas (top left), Jobin Kuriakose (top right), Imtiyaz (Jim) Ilias (bottom left), and Ankeet Patel of Sigma Beta Rho died in Florida after a SUV crashed into their Hyundai Sonata. (Facebook photos)

  • TAMPA, Fla., United States
    Florida Highway Patrol troopers say they’re trying to determine what entrance a driver took on Interstate 275 to end up going the wrong way and crashing into a car carrying four University of South Florida students.

    All five died in the morning crash Feb. 9.

    The crash claimed the lives of South Asian students Jobin Joy Kuriakose, 21, of Orlando; Ankeet Harshad Patel, 22, of Melbourne; Imtiyaz Ilias, 20, of Fort Myers; Dammie Yesudhas, 21, of Melbourne; and the unidentified driver of the 2001 Ford Expedition that crashed head-on into them.

    The Tampa Tribune reports the driver of the wrong-way car has not yet been identified because the body was so badly burned in the crash.

    “We are working with the medical examiner’s office to positively identify who he is, though it might take medical and dental records,’ Florida Highway Patrol Sergeant Steve Gaskins said.

    Toxicology tests, which will determine if the drivers were impaired, also take six to eight weeks, he said.

    Investigators are also piecing together the wrong-way driver’s route.

    “We do not know where he came on the interstate,’ Gaskins said. “He may have turned around in the median. We can say with some level of certainty that he was going the wrong way for at least a mile or two, at least.’

    Video feeds from interstate entrance and exit ramps do not record, he said. They are for observing real-time traffic conditions only, so traffic homicide investigators don’t have videotape from the highway cameras to watch.

    The four students were all members of USF’s Sigma Beta Rho fraternity a USF fraternity dedicated to multiculturalism.

    A donation site was linked by the USF Alumni Association Facebook page. The fund, set up by Sigma Beta Rho national president Mohsin “Rhythmk’ Hussain, saw a steady stream of donations offered, from $5, up to single donations of up to hundreds of dollars.

    “It is unimaginable what the families must be going through right now,’ said the message on the donation Web site. “As we all work through this difficult time, it is important for us to come together and form a support net for the family.

    According to a report in The Tampa Tribune, an emotional remembrance ceremony was held Feb. 13 at USF, attended by nearly 1,000 students, faculty, family and fraternity brothers. The brother of one of the victims hung his head at the dais, too distraught to deliver his eulogy.

    The brother of another said he “couldn’t express in words what I want to say,” and instead played and sang an emotional version of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” on the dead man’s ukulele, said the report.

    Ghan Ilias, older brother of Imtiyaz “Jim” Ilias, told reporters before the service that his brother “was always a good person, had a great smile on his face, always had a positive outlook on life. He was a loyal, hard-working, dedicated person. He’s gone but he’s never forgotten.” Later, in front of the crowd, grief overcame Ghan Ilias, and he was unable to deliver his remarks.

    Jeremy Yasudas, brother of Dammie Yesudas, kicked off his version of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” with a brief, “I miss you, bro.”

    Krupa Patel, the sister of the man she called “Ank,” recounted their last conversation, during which she felt an overwhelming urge to tell her brother she loved him — but didn’t.

    “Please, tell the people you love that you love them. Because you never know when you’ll say it again,” she said through tears.

    The family of Jobin Kuriakose was occupied with family services in Orlando, so friend, fraternity brother and roommate Allan Babu memorialized him at the service.

    He joked about Kuriakose’s dance moves and his penchant for romantic Hindi songs.

    USF president Judy Genshaft announced that all four young men would receive their degrees posthumously at this spring’s commencement ceremonies.

    “They were a part of the family of the University of South Florida, and they will always remain a part of the University of South Florida community forever,” Genshaft said.

    A fund to benefit the families of the students has been set up, and more than 2,200 donations totaling more than $76,000 had been received by Feb. 13.