NU students killed in overseas crash
Less than three years ago, a firefighter carried Victoria McGrath to safety from the bloody chaos of the Boston Marathon finish line, a tourniquet tied around her leg by a bystander.
With a zest for life, she recovered and was set to graduate from Northeastern University in May.
Over the weekend, McGrath, 23, along with her roommate Priscilla Perez Torres, were killed in a car accident in Dubai, stunning friends who had been touched by her perseverance.
“I thought that after surviving the Marathon bomb that that girl was invincible,” said Bruce Mendelsohn, who applied the tourniquet to her leg — riddled by shrapnel — that day in April 2013, and saved her life.
The news was especially devastating for the firefighter who rescued her, James Plourde. A photo of Plourde carrying McGrath, who was from Weston, Conn., became a symbol of the tragedy.
“It’s been said that I helped to save her life, but the truth is Victoria saved my life after the Marathon as her love, support, and friendship helped myself and my family deal with the acts of 4/15/13,” Plourde said in a statement.
McGrath and Perez Torres, who was also 23, were on their way to Bali for spring break, according to Perez Torres’s cousin, Javier Torres.
The women were riding in a yellow two-seat Ferrari that crashed into a pole, Torres said. Also killed were Canadian boxer Cody Nixon and a man believed to be Nixon’s cousin, according to media reports.
Nixon had rented the Ferrari, and a few hours before the crash he posed with the luxury car in an Instagram photo captioned, “Just landed into Dubai picked up the Ferrari! Don’t worry I won’t speed ;)”
Other details of the crash were not available.
Perez Torres, who like McGrath was scheduled to graduate in May, was planning to move to Texas and become a doctor. McGrath would have graduated with a degree in business.
Northeastern president Joseph E. Aoun said Monday that McGrath was “devoted to helping others through leadership in student organizations and community service work.” Aoun remembered Perez Torres, who was from Guaynabo, Puerto Rico, as having a passion for travel and said she was studying issues related to women’s health.
“Each were kind, talented young women, with exceptional futures before them,” Aoun said in the letter. “Their passing leaves a grievous absence in our community and in our hearts.”
At Weston High School, McGrath was quiet and compassionate, principal Lisa Deorio said Monday. Every day, she ate lunch with a table of special-needs students, and formed a close friendship with one physically disabled student, Deorio said.
“She sat there and had lunch with him every single day. That’s who Victoria was,” Deorio said.
McGrath had transferred from an American school in Paris and excelled in French, her principal said. She also took Spanish and was involved in a community service organization.
Perez Torres moved to Boston from Puerto Rico to attend Northeastern, according to her cousin, who also lives in Boston.
Javier Torres, 27, has fond memories of growing up together in Puerto Rico. The family would go on Caribbean cruises, and 8-year-old Perez Torres would enter adult karaoke contests, he said.
The karaoke machine would never have Perez Torres’s favorite song — “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” — so she would sing a cappella, and always win.
“Just because she was so adorable, she would win,” Torres said.
At Northeastern, Perez Torres was a member of the Sigma Delta Tau sorority.
“She was a true ray of sunshine — the whole world is a little dimmer without Priscilla,” said Sara Panahi, who was Perez Torres’s sorority sister.
Five minutes before the first blast on Boylston Street, McGrath had joined her Northeastern classmate, Krystara Brassard, at the finish to cheer for a friend. Brassard was also injured.
The Facebook pages of McGrath and Perez Torres, who lived together off campus, show just how close they were. Perez Torres visited McGrath in her hospital room after the Marathon attacks. They went shopping together at Burberry when McGrath was still in a wheelchair; they attended Red Sox games together.
McGrath also made an impression on her hospital nurses, who became like a family to her, along with Plourde, Mendelsohn, and others involved in her rescue.
Officials from Tufts Medical Center, where McGrath was treated after the bombings for severe injuries to her leg, sent condolences to those closest to McGrath.
Brooke Hynes, a public affairs official at the hospital who worked closely with McGrath when she was being treated, said all of the caregivers at Tufts Medical Center are “heartbroken.”
“Obviously, all of the [Marathon bombings] survivors were very courageous — and she was the same,” said Hynes. “She had a great spirit about her, and was just smart and lovely.”
Officials from the New England Baptist Hospital, where Perez Torres was a co-op student and volunteer, recalled her as a bright, enthusiastic person, and an “important part of the team.”
“She will be deeply missed,” the hospital said in a statement.