A Dartmouth College graduate student who immigrated to the United States from Russia died after being struck by at least two vehicles on a Vermont highway early Saturday while he was apparently lying in a travel lane, authorities and the college said.
Mikhail Lomakin, 24, was struck by a Toyota Highlander and a Honda Accord at about 2:20 a.m. in the right travel lane on Interstate 91 southbound in the town of Hartford, Vermont State Police said.
The drivers initially thought Lomakin was a dead animal and could not avoid striking him once they got closer, State Police said. Lomakin was pronounced dead at the scene.
The statement did not indicate whether either driver was cited, and a State Police spokeswoman did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment Tuesday night.
Lomakin’s mother — Mariya Lomakina of Groton, Mass. — said in a phone interview that her family immigrated to the United States from Russia in 1996 and that Lomakin lived in Swampscott, Boxborough, and Groton before moving to Vermont. She said he was pursuing his doctorate in physics at Dartmouth.
“He was very bright,” Lomakina said. “In a little over a year [as a University of Massachusetts Lowell undergraduate] he taught himself physics more than you can study in the whole undergraduate school. . . . He was full of hope and excited about his new life.”
Lomakina said she had not spoken to her son on Friday evening, and police have not told her how they think he ended up lying on the highway.
“I think they don’t have [any] idea, either,” she said.
Lomakina said Tuesday that she did not believe her son was having any recent problems in Vermont. “He was very happy there,” she said.
State Police said they would like to hear from anyone who had contact with Lomakin on Friday.
Troopers believe that a third vehicle may have been involved in striking Lomakin and that it may have sustained front end or windshield damage.
In a statement issued Monday, Dartmouth president Carol L. Folt and F. Jon Kull, the dean of graduate studies, offered condolences to Lomakin’s family and friends. They said he was a first-year graduate student in physics, known to friends and professors as Mike.
“There are no words to describe this kind of tragedy,” the statement said. “We ask you to please join us in keeping Mike’s parents, family, and friends foremost in your thoughts in the days ahead.”
Lomakin was a dean’s list student at UMass Lowell, where he graduated in May, Dartmouth officials said. He received the chancellor’s medal for academic achievement in atmospheric science at commencement, according to the statement.
“Mike had a passion for physics, developed during a summer camping trip, when his grandfather prompted him to read about black hole thermodynamics,” the statement said. “In his studies, friends say Mike wanted to find interesting problems and solve them.” An autopsy was to be performed.
Vermont State Police urge anyone who was traveling on I-91 between Exit 14 and Exit 11 between about 1 a,m, and 2:30 a.m. Saturday who saw a pedestrian on the road or anything suspicious to call the Royalton barracks at 802-234-9933.
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