NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Rutgers University is mourning the deaths of two students over the weekend.
Alcohol is suspected of playing a role in the death of 19-year-old Caitlyn Kovacs, of South Brunswick.
The Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office said Kovacs appeared to be in distress while attending a gathering at the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity house early Sunday morning.
Several friends took the sophomore to Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, where she later died.
Officials are awaiting results of an autopsy.
The owner of a pet-sitting business where Kovacs worked this summer told 1010 WINS she was loved by everyone.
“In complete shock and the rest of the sitters are in complete shock,” said Brenda Janner. “She just had such a gift. She was such a big impact on this business between the clients and the sitters.”
Janner said she spoke with Kovacs last week and all seemed well.
“She seemed good, in good spirits. She was excited, looking forward to coming back, even possibly on the weekends if she was able to with her school schedule,” she said.
“It’s just heartbreaking for everyone,” said Alex Ruddy, a childhood friend of Kovacs.
Ruddy said she’s just one of countless people mourning the loss of Kovacs, CBS 2’s Diane Macedo reported.
Rutgers student Cory Yelo said the fact that investigators believe alcohol may have played a role was surprising.
“Any other girl wouldn’t be that surprising, but the fact that it was her shocked us all,” he said.
“She was one of those girls that would go out and just have a good time, not drink and black out,” Ruddy said. “Whatever happened that night someone needs to speak up because she shouldn’t have died.”
Rutgers President Robert Barchi issued a statement calling Kovacs’ death a tragic loss for the Rutgers community.
On Monday, Rutgers Chancellor Richard L. Edwards issued a letter to the campus that mourned the loss of Kovacs and also commented on the death of another Rutgers student, Darsh Patel, who was killed by a bear while hiking on Sunday.
“I offer my deepest sympathy to Caitlyn’s parents and family members, and to everyone at the University who knew and called Caitlyn a friend. Our entire community shares in your sorrow at this sudden and tragic loss. We will continue to hold Caitlyn and her loved ones in our thoughts and prayers, the statement said.
“I deeply regret to report that we learned this morning of the passing of another Rutgers student, Darsh Patel, a senior in the School of Arts and Sciences majoring in information technology and informatics. Darsh was killed in a bear attack yesterday while hiking with friends in a wooded area of Passaic County. As we grieve over his tragic passing, please know that our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and loved ones and to all his friends and fellow students at Rutgers.”
Edwards urged anyone in the Rutgers community affected by the deaths to call Counseling, ADAP, and Psychiatric Services (CAPS) on the College Avenue Campus for counseling at 848-932-7884.
The university is also making counselors available from 11 a.m. through 4 p.m. at the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs’ conference room on the fourth floor of the College Avenue Student Center.
“At the core of our university’s mission is our primary concern for the well-being of our students, and it is at heartbreaking moments like this that we must take special care to reach out with compassion and support,” Edwards said.
Delta Kappa Epsilon also released a statement, saying “We would like to extend our deepest condolences to the family and friends of Caitlyn Kovacs. We also wish to extend our sympathies to the students of Rutgers University as they endure this time of grief and misfortune.”
The fraternity said it is fully cooperating with authorities in the case.
The Middlesex County Medical Examiner’s Office will perform an autopsy to determine Kovacs’ official cause of death.
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