The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

Road trip ends in fatal crash

Cordele Dispatch

The UW-Eau Claire community is still in mourning and shock after the freak accident that claimed the lives of two UW-Eau Claire students on their way to a Florida spring break trip.

Jason Buchmeier, a 21-year-old geography major from Mauston, and Jason Schluter, a 23-year-old kinesiology major from Lyndon Station, died after an airborne tire from a semi-tractor trailer struck their minivan on March 16 near Cordele, Ga.

Buchmeier was pronounced dead at the scene while Schluter, the driver of the van, died four days later at The Medical Center of Central Georgia.

Since the accident, the other passengers in the van, including sophomore Ryan Wirth, juniors Pat Senzig and Christopher Wiora and Joe Burns, who is not a student at Eau Claire, have leaned on each other for support, Wirth said.

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“Mentally, we’re doing all right, he said. “We’ve just been hanging together this whole last week.”

The crash occurred at about 12:45 Eastern Daylight Time on Interstate 75 near Cordele, Ga., about 100 miles from the Florida state line.

Wirth, who was riding in the front passenger seat of the minivan, was able to pull the vehicle over, which probably saved additional lives.

Wirth used one of his hands to push the brake and the other to guide the van to the curb before the van hit the median, he said.

But Wirth said the “true heroes” were Senzig and Burns. They were the ones who woke up Wirth, yelling for him to take control of the van.

“Anyone can grab a wheel and pull it to the side,” Wirth said. “If it wasn’t for Pat and Joe screaming my name, it could have been worse.”

Wirth, Senzig, Burns and Wiora were treated and released in Georgia before flying back to be with their families in Wisconsin.

Wirth received seven stitches near his eye and Senzig had surgery to repair a broken nose Tuesday, Wirth said.

Wirth said they received a copy of the investigation report but declined comment on it because of legal issues surrounding the case.

Georgia State Patrol officials did not return phone calls seeking comment on the investigation.

The university has been very supportive since the students returned to Eau Claire earlier this week, Wirth said.

“I didn’t know either student, but this is a terrible tragedy and a terrible loss for the families, our university community, and these students’ many friends and colleagues,” Chancellor Brian Levin-Stankevich said in an e-mail to The Spectator. “The campus community will do what we can to support all who have been touched by this tragic accident.”

The flag on top of Schofield Hall flew at half-staff March 22 and 24, the day of Buchmeier and Schluter’s funerals, respectively.

Eau Claire students, most of whom heard about the news through university-wide e-mails last week, expressed shock over the incident.

Sophomore Alyse Randall, who, like Schluter, is a kinesiology major, said some of her friends actually drove past the crash site and saw the damaged vehicle, only to find out later it was driven by Eau Claire students.

“It’s pretty shocking to get those e-mails,” said Randall, who added it has hit the kinesiology department hard. “It’s upsetting just to hear that. I personally didn’t know the students, but I feel bad for the people that do know them.”

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Road trip ends in fatal crash