COLUMBIA, S.C. — Three of the four people killed in a fiery pre-dawn car crash near Williams-Brice Stadium this week were University of South Carolina students, university officials confirmed Thursday.
Richland County Coroner Gary Watts identified the victims as 22-year-old Billings Fuess IV; 23-year-old Kelsey Harris; 22-year-old Brian McGrath, and 24-year-old Melinda Pipp.
University spokesman Wes Hickman said Fuess was a student last semester, but was not currently enrolled. Harris and McGrath were both upperclassmen, and Pipp was Harris’s roommate.
Wednesday was Harris’ birthday, Watts noted.
They had been seen together at several local nightspots prior to the collision, Watts said, adding that Pipp was an employee at a local sports café.
“Losing a young life is the most painful experience and yesterday four vibrant spirits were lost. Please keep their surviving family and friends in your thoughts and prayers,” USC President Harris Pastides said in a statement. He said counselors were available to students and staff members.
Hickman said none of the accident victims lived on campus. He said the university identifies students by number of class hours as opposed to which year they were attending the school.
Watts said McGrath was from Fairfield, Conn., and was residing in an apartment complex near the stadium. He and Fuess had been friends since high school.
The coroner said Pipp was from Wisconsin, and Harris was from Kentucky, and were roommates.
McGrath was driving, and Fuess was in the front seat, Watts said. The two women were in back.
Police said their car missed a sharp curve near the football stadium, slamming into a building and bursting into flames minutes later.
The wreck happened around 5 a.m. when the car ran off George Rogers Boulevard near the stadium and crashed into a Farm Bureau insurance building. It shut down nearby roads for hours.
Columbia Police Chief Randy Scott said it was the worst wreck he had ever seen, and said his investigators were probing the crash extra carefully since four people died.
The wreck happened near a sharp curve in the road and investigators were trying to determine why the driver lost control of the vehicle, which had Florida license plates.
Watts said it appeared from the autopsies that all of the victims died from multiple trauma and that they were dead prior to the fire.
Watts says the identifications were made with dental x-rays, surgical records, witness statements, and tattoos because the victims were so badly burned. He said additional toxicology reports will take several weeks.