UB Student Involved in Fatal Grand Island Car Crash

Greek activities suspended through Saturday

On February 15, 2002

A fatal car crash in Grand Island last Sunday morning has resulted in the suspension of all Greek activities at UB at least through Saturday, due to allegations that the two minors involved in the accident had been drinking at a fraternity party before plunging into the Niagara River.

UB's Alpha Sigma Phi fraternity chapter has received a disciplinary suspension for "alleged violations of campus policies on alcohol-related activities and service of alcohol to minors," according to a statement issued yesterday by Dennis Black, vice president for Student Affairs. All other fraternity and sorority events, including the induction of new members, have been suspended pending a meeting of Greek leaders, rush chairpersons and new members with university leaders Saturday.

Jeffrey Critelli, a freshman architecture student at UB, and Travis Hennigar, a 19-year-old Erie Community College student, reportedly attended an Alpha Sigma Phi fraternity party last Saturday during new member recruitment, or "rush," week, according to Erie County Sergeant Bradley Roth.

Roth said the two left the party for PJ Bottoms, a Main Street bar in the University Heights district, at which Critelli, and possibly Hennigar, used fake identification to gain admittance. After leaving the bar around 3:30 a.m., Hennigar drove the two to his home, where he exchanged his car for the family's sedan before driving Critelli to his home.

According to police, the car was heading down Bedell Road at speeds approaching 100 mph when it struck a culvert at a junction with West River Parkway and sped into the river at approximately 4:30 a.m.

After escaping through the car's sunroof, Critelli swam to shore and called for help. Dive teams from North Tonawanda and the Coast Guard led a search effort that lasted until Tuesday, but called off the search after finding the car with no body inside. Hennigar remains missing and is presumed dead, but two dive teams - one from Erie County, one from the city of Buffalo - will perform a "training" dive Friday at the crash site.

According to Roth, Critelli was "visibly intoxicated" at the scene of the crash, and officers "are assuming, based on what we know and what was said, that the driver had been drinking."

One female UB student, who asked that her name be withheld, said she met Hennigar and Critelli for the first time at the Alpha Sigma Phi party last Saturday night at a Winspear Avenue residence rented by fraternity members. At the party, Critelli was one of about 10 potential new members, according to the source, and kegs of beer were being served.

The student said Critelli, whom she described as "a really nice kid," had told her and a group of friends "he really wanted to come out with everybody after the party, but said he'd need a ride home to Grand Island."

Jeffrey's mother Janet Critelli said her son believes Hennigar had not been drinking that night.

"My son is not a liar, and he told me that Travis was a pretty honest kid," said Critelli. "He clearly admits that he was drinking, but adamantly denies that Travis was drinking."

Hennigar's family declined to comment when reached by telephone Thursday.

Barbara Ricotta, dean of Student Affairs, confirmed Thursday that Alpha Sigma Phi was under investigation and suspended until the completion of disciplinary hearings. Black said "there could be severe consequences for any group or individuals named," and stated in a release that charges against individuals were "still under consideration."

Alpha Sigma Phi President Ed Pawliske declined to comment regarding the allegations.

Black said the suspension of all Greek activities was necessary until "we are assured of the degree to which all Greek activities will be healthy, positive, safe ones." If a responsible party or individuals are identified by the conclusion of Saturday's meeting, "then we can go forward," said Black, adding that activities for other Greek organizations will possibly resume after the meeting.

Until then, Greek organizations will be unable to sponsor or advertise events, participate in any Greek event or governance activity, or use campus facilities, in addition to soliciting, educating or inducting new student members.

PJ Bottoms is under investigation by the State Liquor Authority for selling alcohol to minors, accepting false identification and serving intoxicated individuals, according to Roth.

Roth said fake identification "has always been a problem" in the University Heights district, and is becoming more prevalent with easy availability through the Internet and in some Canadian cities.


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