A Dover couple and their son were killed in a car crash in New York state Saturday when a SUV crossed into oncoming traffic and collided head-on with their convertible.
Patrick D. Krolak, 72, his wife Rita Krolak, 70, and their son, Patrick M. Krolak, 42, were pronounced dead at the scene, according to New York State Police.
The elder Krolak was a longtime computer science professor at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. His son, who was behind the wheel, lived in Chicago.
The SUV flipped over after the crash and burst into flames. Another driver stopped his car and pulled the driver of the SUV, Peter Patrenicola, to safety.
Patrenicola, 62, is in serious condition at a hospital in Burlington, Vt.
He was traveling north on Route 30 in Duane, N.Y., around 3 p.m. Saturday when his SUV crossed into the southbound lane, State Police said. The Krolaks’ car flipped from the impact and landed on its top in a ditch, according to State Police.
Authorities said they were investigating what caused the accident. There have been no charges filed.
Duane is a small town located in the Adirondacks in northern New York.
Patrick Krolak’s son, Michael Krolak, is the executive director of the Boston Globe’s information technology department.
Tom Costello, a longtime colleague of Patrick Krolak’s at UMass Lowell, said his death was a great loss. Krolak was an excellent researcher and instructor who mentored countless students over the years, he said.
“He respected them and he challenged them,” he said. “He was never wanting for a new idea.”
Patrick Krolak grew up in Chicago and graduated from the University of Chicago in 1962. He received his doctorate in applied mathematics and computer from Washington University in 1968.
He was a professor at Vanderbilt University from 1968 to 1979, chairing the computer science department from 1974-1977. He taught and conducted research on robotics, artificial intelligence, and investment management, according to his resume.
Costello, who said he hired Krolak in 1982, said he offered a rare combination of theory and practice, an academic who excelled at finding practical applications for his ideas. As a teacher, he encouraged his students to tackle problems from all sides, and to think big.
“He pushed them to create things, to break barriers,” he said.
Many of his students have gone on to be leaders in their field, Costello said. News of Krolak’s death has touched off a genuine sense of loss, he said.
“Everybody’s knocked out,” Costello said.
He described Krolak as a dynamic personality who even a decade after retirement continued to teach, and who constantly revised his curriculum to stay current.
“Every semester he was changing things,” he said, “to keep up with the times.”
Krolak was an exceedingly bright man, he said, but was far from an ivory tower type. He liked to have fun, “could talk to people,” and loved a good argument, he said.
“You knew where he stood,” he said with a chuckle, saying he was always good-natured about the give-and-take of a debate.
He recalled Rita Krolak as a former nurse practitioner who was “quick with a smile and a laugh.”