David J. Gallagher was always so upbeat — his face invariably brightened by a smile — that his teammates on the Dartmouth College lacrosse team occasionally found him to be, well, annoying, his former coach said.
“One of the guys told me a funny story last night as we were reminiscing,” Brendan Callahan said in a telephone interview last week. The teammate would get exasperated with Gallagher “because in his words, ‘I just don’t understand why you’re so damn positive [with] the stuff going on!’”
Callahan said the memory perfectly captured Gallagher, a 24-year-old Dartmouth alum who died Monday in what Hanover, N.H., police said appeared to be a “horrible accident” while in town to participate in his COVID-delayed graduation ceremony at the Ivy League school.
“The biggest thing that we all remember about him is just that smile,” Callahan said. “Whether we were winning or losing, whether it was a hard workout or a fun day on the field, he had a big smile on his face. And that’s sort of how he approached life.”
According to Hanover first responders, Gallagher was fatally injured early Monday while with friends near the Ledyard Bridge, which spans the Connecticut River and connects New Hampshire with Vermont. The incident remains under investigation and alcohol may have played a role, but no criminal charges are expected, police said.
Around 1:48 a.m. Monday, Gallagher’s friends called 911 reporting that he was seriously injured and lying on the bank of the Connecticut River, according to Hanover police. First responders found Gallagher on an embankment about 100 yards south of the Ledyard Bridge and used a pontoon boat to bring him to a waiting ambulance.
Gallagher was taken to Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, N.H., where he died from severe injuries, authorities said.
According to his online obituary, Gallagher grew up in Downington, Penn., and was a graduate of West High School, where he was an outstanding student and athlete. He was working in California for Bellwether Asset Management as an analyst at the time of his death.
Gallagher “was the kind of person who was always smiling and never failed to see the best in others,” the obituary read. “He lived life to its fullest, not one to pass up an opportunity to travel. And, as a natural athlete, he’d only just taken up surfing and volleyball.”
Gallagher was a member of the lacrosse team during his four years at Dartmouth, playing as a midfielder, according to Callahan and school athletic records. He played in 43 games, started 19 of them, scored 11 goals, and had eight assists during his career, according to the school.
But his character was more important to the team than his scoring acumen.
“He had a gracious spirit to him, that’s just how he went about his business,” Callahan said. “On the team, he was a high character guy.”
Gallagher’s former teammates, with whom Callahan has spoken in person and during Zoom gatherings, are struggling emotionally, he said.
“Everybody’s struggling with it. Teammates are struggling with it. It’s just so unexpected when you have a person who is that young and in perfect shape,” he said. “It wasn’t like he was sick and there was some indication. It was an absolute surprise.”
He added: “I think that’s the hardest part for everybody. He was back in town for a joyous event and celebration. I think when you put those things together — the unexpectedness and circumstances around it make it a challenge . . . He’s the guy who lifted everybody else’s spirit.”
A funeral Mass is set for Monday at the St. Joseph Catholic Church in Downingtown, where he was a communicant. He leaves his parents, a sister, and an extensive extended family.
“A loving son and brother, it would surprise no one who knew him that as his final wish, David was able to heal others as a tissue donor,” the obituary read.