Two college campuses in the New River Valley are mourning the loss of students after a fatal car crash on Interstate 81.
Police are still investigating the crash, which happened Friday night on I-81 in Wythe County. Police say a car traveling southbound crossed the median and crashed head-on into a car traveling northbound.
A student in each of those cars was killed – 21-year-old Paige Neubauer, a junior at Virginia Tech, and 21-year-old Bridgett Oliver, a senior at Radford University.
Dozens turned out for a vigil at Radford University Sunday night to remember Bridgett Oliver, an honors nursing student who was getting ready to graduate in May.
“She was an amazing person,” said Holly Sanford, a fellow senior nursing student at Radford. “And just her compassion and caring that she had for her patients was just so inspirational.”
Fellow students in her class said they are heartbroken. Nursing students we spoke with said they become close, spending long hours together.
“We get up for 4 a.m. clinicals in the morning,” said Zoe Belote, a senior at Radford. “We spend all day, 12 hours a day with each other. We have classes with each other. It’s been our life together.”
According to Sharla Cooper, undergraduate nursing program coordinator at Radford University, Oliver was on her way back from an honors conference where she presented her capstone project. She was about to be inducted into the Honor Society of Nursing.
“She had been offered a job in labor and delivery, and it’s what she always wanted to do,” said Cooper, who served as Oliver’s capstone advisor. “Her dreams were really coming true.”
Meanwhile, students are also sharing memories inside the Delta Gamma sorority house at Virginia Tech. Sorority sisters of Paige Neubauer describe her as outgoing and someone who loved helping others.
“Paige was one of my first friends in DG,” said Molly Zodikoff, a student at Virginia Tech. “She’s never met a stranger. She’s so nice, so bubbly.”
“You could be a complete stranger, and she would smile and say ‘hi’ to you and try to strike up a conversation,” said Caroline Cogan, president of the Virginia Tech chapter of Delta Gamma.
Cogan said her group is also tight-knit, and now her sorority sisters are leaning even more on each other.
“We just thought being together and talking about her and our favorite memories, and it was honestly a really nice way to honor her life,” Cogan said.
Students on both college campuses say they are grateful to have those memories.
“Since Bridgett didn’t have the opportunity to become the nurse she was meant to be, everyday in our career we’ll have her in our memory and do everything for her and honor her,” said Victoria Stafford, a Radford University senior.
Another Radford University senior, 22-year-old Rachel Jones, was also injured in the crash and continues to recover in the hospital, according to authorities. GoFundMe pages have been set up to support funeral expenses for Oliver and Jones’s medical bills.
The Delta Gamma sorority at Virginia Tech held a private candlelight vigil Sunday for sorority sisters to remember Neubauer, Cogan said. The group is working with university officials to hold a public vigil this week, she added.