Fencing coach killed in accident

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November 14, 2007

7:04 PM

__Two students listed in critical but stable condition after crash on way to fencing tournament__

Peter S. Conomikes, the longtime coach of the College’s fencing team, was killed in a car accident on an interstate near Richmond Saturday afternoon. He was 86.

p. Two of the fencers in the car, Spencer Butts ’11 and Ben Gutenberg ’11, were seriously injured and were taken to the Medical College of Virginia in Richmond for treatment.

p. “[They] are in critical but stable condition,” Sam Sadler, vice president for Student Affairs, said in an e-mail to students Sunday afternoon.

p. In yesterday’s Richmond Times-Dispatch, Tom Hennig ’08, one of the captains of the fencing team, said that the two freshmen “are going to be in the hospital for a while, but they’re doing reasonably well.”

p. A third fencer, Matt Peppe ’11, was less seriously injured. He was treated for a broken wrist and was released from the hospital.
The College’s fencing team was on its way to compete in an event for the Middle Atlantic Collegiate Fencing Association in Haverford, Penn. Conomikes was driving three freshmen fencers in his car, while the rest of the team followed in a 15-passenger Student Activities van.

p. At about 1 p.m., approximately one hour into the trip, the two vehicles were traveling on I-295 near Richmond when the car suddenly veered off the road.

p. Luke Davis ’07, former president of the fencing team and a graduate student of chemistry at the College, was driving the van that carried the majority of the team and had a clear view of the accident.

p. “The short of it is that his car just swerved off the road to the left and drove straight into a tree,” Davis said.

p. He said that emergency vehicles from Henrico County arrived on the scene within five minutes of the accident.

The College responded immediately, offering support for the fencing team.

p. “The College has been phenomenal,” Davis said.

p. Recreational Sports has offered to pay for expenses related to the accident, including food and lodging for the families of the injured players. A counselor was brought in Saturday to talk to members of the team, and further counseling is available through the school. The dean of students arranged for those players who were not yet ready to deal with academic obligations to be excused from classes and exams for the week.

p. Davis said that fencing team members often ate together, especially before competitions. To encourage this tradition, Sadler signed up those team members who previously did not have College meal plans for dinner-only plans so that the fencers could eat together as a team for the rest of the semester.

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