Initial reports are that the female victim was seated with her back against the exterior firehouse door to Bay 7 at the UConn Fire Department. At 0113 hours, the department was called to a scene and shift commander prepared to respond to the incident. The door to the bay, which the student was leaning on, mechanically opened so the fire vehicle could get to the scene. At that point the student fell back when the door was lifted and was fatally struck by the fire vehicle when it left the driveway to respond to the scene.
A student was killed after being struck by a UConn Fire Department vehicle early Sunday, state police said.
Trooper Kelly Grant identified the student victim as Jeffny Pally, 19, of West Hartford.
Grant said Pally was seated with her back against the exterior door to bay seven at the fire department. At 1:13 a.m. the department was called to 100 North Eagleville Road and shift commander Dana E. Barrow Jr., 60, prepared to respond. The door to the bay, which Pally was leaning on, mechanically opened so the Chevy Tahoe could get to the scene.
Grant said Pally fell back when the door was lifted and was fatally struck by the fire vehicle. Police did not say why Pally was in front of the fire station.
Family and friends gathered at Pally’s home in West Hartford on Sunday night and her older brother recalled her as a friendly young woman who strived to maintain friendships and personal connections with people she met.
“We used to joke that she had friends in 50 states,” Joel Pally said. “She was the kind of person who could make friends out of anyone and everyone. Every relationship she made she held onto and cherished.”
Pally said his sister was a sophomore at UConn and planned on studying nursing. He said she was involved in Special Olympics and was also a resident assistant in the dormitory where she lived.
“A resident assistant is like a floor mom and that was the kind of person she was,” Pally said. “She wanted to make sure the people around her were taken care of.”
Barrow has been placed on an administrative duty position as the investigation continues, Grant said.
“Every student is precious to us, and this is a heartbreaking and tragic loss,” UConn President Susan Herbst said in a statement. “Our deepest sympathies go out to her family, friends, and all those whose lives she touched. We know that words cannot begin to express their grief.”
The school is encouraging students to seek support through its Counseling & Mental Health Services.
“I am just distraught and saddened by the loss of this remarkable young woman,” said West Hartford Mayor Shari Cantor, whose youngest son was friends with Pally.
Cantor said Pally was the youngest of three siblings to attend Hall High School in West Hartford, where she was “a really good math student” and an athlete. Hall will have extra counselors on hand Monday morning to help grieving students.
“She was such a nice, sweet person,” said Kristen Jenkins, a classmate. “I didn’t know her well, but she always seemed like she cared a lot about other people and was really involved on campus.”
Rohin Thomas, 21, a UConn senior, said he had known Pally for more than 10 years.
“One thing I always remember about Jeffny was that she was always smiling and she would go out of her way to say ‘hi’ to anyone,” Thomas said.
“Thank you for being our RA,” UConn student Kayla Fung said in an email. “[She was] always kind and said ‘hello’ or ‘good morning.’ Just those little things were enough for me to know that [she was] a good person.”
At Hall High, about a dozen counselors will be available to help students affected by Pally’s death, Principal Dan Zittoun said after the school’s crisis team met on Sunday afternoon.
“Jeffny was a well-liked student who made a lot of friends with different people and she was involved in a lot of extracurricular activities,” Zittoun said.
He said Pally graduated from Hall in 2015. Pally was a member of the school’s soccer and track and field teams along with Chem 4 Kids, a student club that did activities in the elementary schools to introduce younger students to science, Zittoun said.
“You never know how this is going to impact people,” Zittoun said. “There may be relationships like mentoring that you don’t know about and even if a student did not know the deceased the death may trigger memories of a relative or friend dying. If the impact is not direct there can be indirect impacts.”
UConn police responded to the scene but by request of the state’s attorney’s office and UConn officials, Troop C and the state police crash analysis reconstruction squad will handle the investigation.