NEW HAVEN, Conn. -- A Yale University student received a special form of probation Friday that will leave him with no criminal record for an accident in 2011 in which the truck he was driving struck and killed a woman and injured two others during tailgating at a Yale-Harvard football game.
Brendan Ross, of O’Fallon, Mo., was granted accelerated rehabilitation in New Haven Superior Court. The program is for first-time offenders whose charges are dismissed if they successfully complete probation.
Ross, 22, will serve 400 hours of community service. Ross pleaded guilty to two infractions, traveling too fast and unsafe starting.
Police say Ross was driving a rental truck carrying beer kegs through a popular tailgating area before the Harvard-Yale game when witnesses saw the vehicle turn a corner and speed up, striking three women. Nancy Barry, a 30-year-old from Salem, Mass., was killed.
Ross had been charged with negligent homicide with a motor vehicle and reckless driving, but prosecutors agreed to change the charges to reckless driving and reckless endangerment so that he would be eligible for the program. The victim’s family and the other victims agreed with the resolution of the case, attorneys said.
"This accident was solely caused by the recklessness of this defendant," said Prosecutor David Strollo.
But Strollo said Ross did not intentionally cause the accident. "By all accounts, he was appropriately remorseful," Strollo said.
Strollo said Ross was driving a rented U-Haul and when he reached a parking lot pedestrian traffic was blocking the way. Ross revved the engine in an effort to get the pedestrians to move, but the car took off, Strollo said.
Ross said he was hitting the brake but it was the gas pedal, Strollo said.
"Oh my God, what did I do? It was an accident," Ross said, according to Strollo.
Ross passed a field sobriety test after the collision and police said he was cooperative in the investigation.
Ross did not comment in court other than to answer the judge’s questions and enter a plea for the infractions.
Strollo said an expert found no defects with the vehicle that contributed to the accident and a defense expert came to the same conclusion.
Ross is grateful for the compassion shown by the Barry family and the other victims, said his attorney, William Dow III.
"Brendan Ross is an outstanding young man who was involved in a tragic accident," Dow said in a statement. "He will emerge from this without a criminal record, but the memory of that tragedy remains. Brendan and his family have extended their condolences to Ms. Barry’s family when the accident occurred. Ms. Barry remains in their prayers."
Another woman who was struck, Sarah Short, filed a lawsuit against Ross and U-Haul.
Yale tightened its tailgating rules since the crash. It now bans kegs at university athletic events and other functions. Also, oversized vehicles, such as box trucks and large commercial vehicles, are barred from university lots at athletic events unless they are driven by a preapproved authorized vendor.