Drunken driver kills student, police say

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A Connecticut College student planning to use her spring break for a humanitarian mission to Uganda was killed Saturday in an accident involving a drunken driver on Interstate 395 in Montville, police said.

Elizabeth Durante, 20, of West Islip, N.Y., was one of eight students en route to the airport when their van was struck head-on by a Groton man traveling the wrong way without his vehicle’s headlights on, police said.  

The accident occurred at 3:45 a.m. in the area of Exit 79A in Montville, which is the intersection with Route 2A. A portion of the northbound side of I-395 was closed for several hours after the accident.

Seven students and the van driver were rushed to hospitals in the area and all but one were treated and released, Connecticut College spokeswoman Deborah MacDonnell said.

Daniel Musser, 23, of 200 Michelle Lane in Groton was charged by state police with driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, second-degree manslaughter with a motor vehicle, second-degree assault with a motor vehicle, driving the wrong way on a highway and operating without minimum insurance, police said.

Police said Musser was driving south in the northbound lane in a Honda registered in Missouri. 

“The Connecticut College community suffered a heartbreaking loss this morning,” MacDonnell said. “(Durante) was one of those really terrific students who did a lot of community service work.”

Durante had helped organize the trip to Kaberamaido, Uganda, as part of a medical mission with Asayo’s Wish Foundation. The students were going to deliver medical supplies and provide basic medical care to the village’s residents, MacDonnell said.

The other students in the van were Jennifer T. Blanco of Groton, Charles Gartman of New York City, Rie Tai of New London, Laura Whitelaw of San Rafael, Calif., Jessica S. Gordon of Barrington, R.I., Samantha Herndon of Roswell, Ga., and John W. Meade of Bronx, N.Y. The driver of the van was Faheem Muhammad of Groton.

“Elizabeth was a student of enormous talent, commitment and compassion,” Connecticut College President Leo I. Higdon Jr. said in a written statement. “Her passing is an incalculable loss to our community. Our deepest sympathies are with Elizabeth’s family and with her many friends on campus.”

Police said the accident remains under investigation.

Musser is expected for arraignment Monday in Norwich Superior Court.

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