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Stanford students in fatal Big Sur crash

- Drove off Hurricane Point — no skid marks on road


Published: October 17, 2008

THREE STANFORD graduate students on their way to meet schoolmates in Big Sur last Friday died when their Jeep plummeted off a cliff on Hurricane Point sometime that night. No witnesses have come forward, leaving the California Highway Patrol without much information about how the fatal wreck transpired.

According to CHP public information officer Jim Covello, 29-year-old Long Island, N.Y., resident Christopher Sahm, 23-year-old Micah Springer from Columbus, Ohio, and 28-year-old Raleigh, N.C., resident Viet Quoc Nguyen were heading south in Sahm’s 2005 Jeep Cherokee the night of Oct. 10.

The accident came to light Saturday morning after classmates reported the men — MBA students in the prestigious university’s business school — had failed to arrive at a gathering in Big Sur Friday night, according to the Stanford News Service.

A California Highway Patrol helicopter located the wreckage, and the sheriff’s search and rescue team recovered the bodies. The vehicle has not yet been removed.

Covello does not know what caused the Jeep to veer off the highway, cross the dirt and careen over the side of the road to land on the rocks near the surf line some 600 feet below.

“All we have are tire friction marks in the dirt and beyond the dirt berm, and track marks through brush, and then evidence the vehicle rolled at least twice on the way down,” he said. “There was debris all the way, though the majority of it is down on the rocks at the edge of the ocean.”

No skid marks were found on the highway, and it’s unknown whether alcohol or drugs played a part. Toxicology results will not be available from the coroner’s office for at least a week, according to Covello.

“As we all know, it’s a very unforgiving roadway at times,” he said.

At least 13 people have died in vehicle accidents on Highway 1 from Rio Road to the San Luis Obispo County line between January 2003 and April 2008, according to preliminary data from the CHP, and at least 351 people were injured during that same period. A total of 539 collisions were reported, including 248 that caused injuries or deaths.

Friday’s accident was at the same spot where two Southern California men died after their Porsche left the roadway in August 2003.

University mourns

Meanwhile, faculty, staff and students at Stanford are mourning the three men, the university’s news service reported.

“This is a tragic loss for the Stanford community of three brilliant and promising students who had so much to contribute to the world, and lost their lives too suddenly and too soon,” President John Hennessy is quoted as saying. “To the families, friends and graduate business colleagues of Viet, Chris and Micah, and all those who are also grieving at this shocking news, we send our deepest sympathies from the entire university community.”

“All of us are shocked and full of grief, and our hearts and prayers go out to their families and friends,” business school dean Robert Joss reportedly wrote in a note to students and faculty. “We will prepare plans for the coming week to remember them, to share our grief, and to support each other at such a difficult time.”