Tragic crash breaks hearts on both sides of L.I. Sound

Rebecca Jensen and Megan Drobny, both of Greenport, place flowers at a memorial for Kaitlyn Doorhy outside Mattituck-Cutchogue high School Saturday evening. (Credit: Jessica DiNapoli)
Rebecca Jensen and Megan Drobny, both of Greenport, place flowers at a memorial for Kaitlyn Doorhy outside Mattituck-Cutchogue High School Saturday evening. (Credit: Jessica DiNapoli)

One mile up the road from Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Conn., across the street from the Kappa Delta sorority house, rests a small memorial paying tribute to Kaitlyn Doorhy.

With its collection of candles and assorted flowers, it’s similar to another display that has taken shape across the Long Island Sound at Mattituck High School, from which Ms. Doorhy, an aspiring attorney, graduated in 2012.

The photographs and handwritten notes on display at both memorials recall a life cut tragically short last week.

Ms. Doorhy was struck by a car while crossing the street near her sorority house shortly after noon Friday. A junior at Sacred Heart, she was 20 years old.

“She was a rising star,” said a neighbor who spoke on behalf of her family at their home Saturday. “She didn’t have a bad bone in her body.”

The 2010 Strawberry Queen, Veronica Stelzer, helps Kaitlyn Doorhy during her coronation as Strawberry Festival queen in 2011. (Credit: Katharine Schroeder, file)
The 2010 Strawberry Queen, Veronica Stelzer, helps Kaitlyn Doorhy during her coronation as Strawberry Festival queen in 2011. (Credit: Katharine Schroeder, file)

That’s exactly the way her friends back home and at college are choosing to remember Ms. Doorhy, a former Mattituck Strawberry Festival queen.

Molly Waitz established the memorial at Mattituck High School after word of her friend’s death spread through the community.

She said she did so to provide comfort for others by giving them a place to leave happy memories and flowers.

“Kaitlyn would not want to see us sad,” she said. “Think of her smile and pay a visit [to the memorial].”

Within hours, other friends had added to the tribute. A Wednesday evening candlelight vigil was planned.

Jennifer McNamara of Mattituck, whose daughter attended school with Ms. Doorhy, brought a bouquet of flowers to the growing memorial.

“She had a wonderful, wonderful future ahead of her,” Ms. McNamara said. “This is one of those moments that’s not real.”

The family’s spokesperson called Ms. Doorhy’s death “unimaginable.”

“She had everything going for her,” the neighbor said, adding that Ms. Doorhy’s parents, Joseph and Darla, were too distraught to speak.

According to a police press release, Ms. Doorhy was crossing the street with another woman at 12:30 p.m. when she was struck by a northbound red Nissan coupe. Police believe the driver swerved to avoid her companion, who was walking ahead of Ms. Doorhy, and then hit the Mattituck native.

The driver, a 28-year-old Bridgeport man, cooperated with authorities and no charges have been filed, police said. The road remained closed for more than six hours while police investigated, according to a witness.

A neighbor who lives near the crash scene said Monday that pedestrian accidents have occurred in the past on that stretch of the busy street, where there is no crosswalk. She said drivers can’t always see people walking out from between cars parked on the side of the road.

Ms. Doorhy was remembered this week by family and friends as a caring person who gave to others — even at the end, when her organs were donated to help save the lives of as many as eight people.

A spokesman at St. Vincent’s Medical Center in Bridgeport released a statement Saturday saying hospital staff “grieves with the Doorhy family.”

“We hope it provides comfort to Kaitlyn’s family and the Sacred Heart University community to know that Kaitlyn’s generous gift of life will save lives,” said Brooke Karlsen, vice president of surgical services at St. Vincent’s.

At Sacred Heart, more than 700 students attended a prayer service held the evening of the accident. University president John Petillo wrote a message to Ms. Doorhy’s classmates that was published on the school’s website Saturday afternoon.

“I think it is important that we continue to celebrate the beginning of a new academic year even as we grieve for the loss of Kaitlyn,” he wrote. “Everything I have heard about Kaitlyn — her caring for others, her dreams to be an attorney, the way she embraced life — tells me that she would expect this from us.”

The school set up counseling for grieving classmates and a memorial Mass will be held there next week, he said.

Allison Perdomo, a Sacred Heart sophomore and former classmate of Ms. Doorhy, said the mood on campus has shifted since the accident. Ms. Perdomo said she rushed back to her residence after hearing the news Friday.

“I grabbed my two friends, hugged them and we started crying,” she said. “I can’t even imagine what her family is going through. Our prayers go out to them.”

Stephanie Tocci, a nursing student, said Ms. Doorhy’s death has brought students on campus closer together.

“Sports, sororities, different classes — everyone here as a whole has been affected,” she said. “We’re very supportive of each other. That’s what’s so great about being part of a small school.”

Ms. Doorhy is survived by her parents and her sister, Carly. Her family has requested that guests wear “bright, festive clothing” to services Thursday, Aug. 28, from 2 to 4 and 7 to 9 p.m. at DeFriest-Grattan Funeral Home in Mattituck. A funeral Mass will be celebrated Friday, Aug. 29, at 11 a.m. at Our Lady of Good Counsel R.C. Church. Interment will follow at Sacred Heart R.C. Cemetery in Cutchogue.

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