By Bobby Burns and Jane Dail
Thursday, April 25, 2013
A geography student and fraternity member at ECU was killed early Wednesday morning when he fell from a tree and was impaled on a metal fence post.
Jonathon Scott Bennett, 21, of Wilson died about 1 a.m. in the woods behind University Manor apartments on East 10th Street, just west of Port Terminal Road, according to Greenville police. Bennett and four friends were walking across a large downed tree. He fell six to eight feet onto the post, part of a wire debris fence police said possibly was left from the construction of the apartments several years ago.
He and his friends had been drinking, police determined in their investigation. The group was making its way back to the apartment complex when a branch Bennett was holding broke.
“It’s a horrible, horrible accident,” Burrell Montz, chairwoman of Department of Geography at East Carolina University, said. “There’s nothing to blame but bad luck.”
“Things like that shouldn’t happen,” Montz said. “It was just tragic news. I was dumbfounded when I read it.”
Bennett was a bright student in the department, Montz said. He was ECU’s “ace” at the North Carolina Geo Bowl, a competition among the geography departments in the state.
Montz said she got to know Bennett about a year ago when he changed his major from biochemistry. He combined strong technical abilities with a love for geography to excel in the department.
He shined in the state competition, she said.
“He was our guy on Geo Bowl. He knew everything, she said. “The Geo Bowl experience, it’s demanding, it’s tense and he was a real star.”
He was a member of Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity who enrolled at ECU in the fall of 2010. He was pursuing a bachelor of science degree in geographic information science and technology.
It was unclear on Wednesday if he lived at University Manor. ECU said Wilson was listed as his permanent address. His mother has been a teacher with Pitt County Schools for four years, according to the school system.
Police and Greenville Fire-Rescue responded to University Manor and used cutting tools to remove Bennett and the post from the ground.
The tree is located about 30 yards into the woods, which stretch from the rear of the complex north to the Tar River.
It is accessible by a foot-worn path down a steep embankment and through thick brush.
The tree had fallen onto the wire fence.
Several green, T-shaped metal fence posts stood out from crumpled wire about four feet into the tree’s branches. One post was cut about eight inches from the ground on Wednesday morning.
Greenville police code enforcement officers visited the scene about 8 a.m. to determine if the tree was on open land or posed a code violation. That process is ongoing, Lt. Richard Allsbrook said at the scene.
Property managers at the apartment complex also are investigating the incident, Clark Terry of University Manor said at the scene.
Detectives from the Greenville Police Major Crimes and Special Victims units found from their interviews that the friends had been drinking alcohol and were hanging out on the fallen tree, police spokesman Sgt. Joe Friday reported.
As the group was headed back to the apartment complex, Bennett was holding on to a branch above him and walking another branch. The branch above broke and gave way, an Bennett fell to the ground, Friday reported.
The post impaled Bennett from the lower left back to the upper right chest. His friends attempted to render first aid but were not successful.
Detectives believe Bennett died almost instantaneously. An autopsy will be performed.
Residents at the apartments on Wednesday morning were boarding ECU transit buses, and others were getting in cars to go to class and to work.
Police and rescue vehicles had caught their attention the night before, but several residents Wednesday morning said they did not know what had happened.
Residents sometimes hike in the woods, two students heading to their car near the scene said, but swampy conditions prevent long excursions.
Shawn Babine, chief executive officer of the Tau Kappa Epsilon national organization, said in a news release that Bennett will be greatly missed.
“The thoughts and prayers of the entire TKE nation go out to the Bennett family and the East Carolina University community,” Babine said. “Jonathon was a wonderful TKE man through and through, holding the ideals of charity, esteem and love throughout his life.”
via The Daily Reflector.