Tompkins Cortland Community College

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Peter Voorhees

Public Information Officer
Sports Information Coordinator

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News Release

Statement from Tompkins Cortland Community College President Orinthia Montague

July 25, 2017

A memorial service for Tompkins Cortland Community College student Roberto Eduardo Mata Lopez will be held Wednesday, July 26 at 3 p.m. in the College’s Student Center. Roberto died in a motor vehicle accident while a passenger in a taxi returning to campus in the early morning hours of July 20. The driver of the cab was also killed in the accident, and seven other Tompkins Cortland students were injured.

The memorial service is designed to give the entire College community a chance to share memories of Roberto. In addition to prayers from local clergy, President Orinthia Montague will provide remarks. There will be opportunities for anyone in attendance to speak or write a message for the family, and students will offer a song. The ceremony will conclude with a symbolic releasing of balloons to the heavens.

The community is welcome to attend. Anyone wishing to send flowers should have them delivered to the Student Center by noon on Wednesday.

July 20, 2017

Statement to campus community at 4 p.m.

Good afternoon, I’d like to provide an update on this morning’s tragic incident that left two people dead, including one of our students.

• The deceased student is Roberto Eduardo Mata Lopez. Roberto was a second-year student in our Global Connections program from the Pontificia Universidad Católica Madre y Maestra (PUCCM) in the Dominican Republic.
• Roberto’s family is en route to the area. We have been in communication to assist them in any way possible. Dean of Student Life John Bradac and I will meet them at the airport tonight and bring them back to campus, where they will stay in one of our residence hall apartments.
• The three students taken to Cortland Regional Medical Center have been treated and released.
• One of the four students taken to Upstate University Hospital has been released. The other three remain hospitalized, but each is said to be improving. We have College staff, including one of our nursing faculty members, at the hospital to remain in communication with the medical staff and our students.
• At the request of our students, three local Catholic priests came to campus to hold a mass in Spanish with our students. These priests have offered to be available for students and families.
• The College’s counseling staff has set up a temporary office in the residence halls and is using that location to offer services to our students. Counselors in the community have also offered to provide assistance over the weekend as needed.
• Our dining services staff have made adjustments to deliver meals to students in the residence halls.
• We have been in contact with, and received condolences from, SUNY Leadership.

I, along with several members of the College staff, had the opportunity to meet with our Global Connections students this morning. While expressing the sympathies on behalf of the entire College community, we shared our heartache, many tears, and many hugs. It was an emotional meeting, but one that left me inspired by the strength of these students.

Regardless of your faith, please join me in keeping all our students and their families in your thoughts and prayers.

Statement at 10:15 a.m.

“Today is a very sad day for Tompkins Cortland Community College. We are left with a heavy heart after learning of the death of one of our students. We share our deepest sympathies with the families and friends of our lost student, as well as those connected to the taxi driver who also perished.

As a result of this tragedy, we have canceled classes and the College’s counseling staff is available for anyone in need. The College is also working to assist the families affected by this tragedy in any way possible.

Our heart and prayers are with the families of the victims, all of our Global Connections students, and the entire Tompkins Cortland community.”


The College has canceled all classes for Thursday, July 20.

Cortland County Sheriff’s Office responded to a single motor vehicle accident on Bennie Rd in the Town of Cortlandville at approximately 2:50 a.m. The vehicle was a taxi van occupied by nine people, including the driver. It left the roadway first striking a utility pole and then striking a tree. The driver and one of the occupants were pronounced dead at the scene, with the remaining seven passengers transported to local hospitals, including Upstate University Hospital in Syracuse and Cortland Regional Medical Center.

The names of the victims have not been released, pending notification of next of kin.