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Bates College students mourn death of classmate

Few details released on death in Rome

LEWISTON, Maine — Students at Bates College will gather Monday afternoon to memorialize a classmate who died while studying in Rome.

John Durkin, a native of Rye Beach, N.H., was last seen early Thursday morning at a bar in Rome’s Campo de Fiori area, according to a statement from the college. His death was reported Saturday by a relative and the US State Department.

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Durkin apparently was struck by a train, but few details about his death have been released by Italian authorities.

Bates students also planned to remember Durkin on Sunday evening with a private candlelight vigil. Durkin was a junior at Bates, where he was an economics major and Asian studies minor, as well as a linebacker on the football team, according to the college.

Victoria Chippari, a student from Hingham who was studying in Rome with Durkin, said she was just starting to become friends with him when he disappeared after socializing with her and others Wednesday night.

“He was just an all-around happy kid, his smile was contagious,” Chippari said in a Facebook message. “Although I only knew him for a short time, he went out of his way to make me feel comfortable in a new group of friends by trying to spark conversation and crack jokes to ease the mood that night.”

At Bates College on Sunday, sophomore Erica Veazey said she did not know Durkin, but his death had affected all the students in the small college’s tightknit community.

“We live in this cushy world at Bates,” Veazey said. “Most of the time we just go to class and to the [dining hall]. It’s easy. But then when something like this happens to one of us, it’s kind of a reality check.”

Durkin’s death, she said, cast a pall over campus as students returned over the weekend from winter break. “It’s just been mellow around here,” Veazey said. “Everyone’s been thinking . . . a lot.”

Outside the college’s dining hall, freshman Jackson Whitehouse, an a cappella singer, said recent visits to other campuses during a performance tour showed him that the Bates community is unique.

“Everyone here is friendly and caring,” Whitehouse said. “If someone needs support after this, I’m sure people will be there to help, whether they know them or not.”

Many students declined to talk with a reporter Sunday, saying they had been asked by college officials not to speak to the news media. A campus security guard later asked the reporter to leave the property.

Some students said the loss of Durkin recalled the deaths of two other students in the past two academic years.

In May 2012, Bates freshman Evan Dube, 19, of Plaistow, N.H., collapsed and died after a moonlight swim during a beach cookout while studying abroad in Scotland, the Globe reported.

That October, 18-year-old freshman Troy Pappas, a wide receiver for the Bates football team from Eliot, Maine, died six days after falling down a stairwell in a campus residence hall, according to the college.

Durkin was living in Rome through a study-abroad program sponsored by Trinity College in Hartford, according to a statement from Trinity’s president, who said he was one of six Bates students among a total of 55 students from several colleges enrolled in the program.

Italian police did not respond Sunday to interview requests. In statements released Saturday, Italian authorities said the body of a 21-year-old American man, who had been reported missing by a college official, was found at about 7 a.m. Friday inside a train tunnel between St. Peter’s and Trastevere stations.

Efforts to identify the man using his fingerprints were unsuccessful, Italian police said, and the man — whom police did not name — was formally identified by relatives on Saturday.

It was unclear how or why Durkin would have traveled to the spot where he was found, about a half-hour’s walk west of the bar where he was last seen. Trinity College’s Rome campus and student housing are in the area of the city’s Aventine Hill, southeast of the bar and distant from the spot where Durkin was found.

The Durkin family did not respond to requests for comment.

Haven Orecchio-Egresitz can be reached at haven.egresitz@globe.com. Jeremy C. Fox can be reached at jeremy.fox@globe.com.
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