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Student Cyclist Killed on Comm Ave

COM grad student was talented photojournalist

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A BU student cyclist was killed Thursday morning in a collision with a tractor-trailer at Commonwealth Avenue and St. Paul Street.

Christopher Weigl (COM’13), a 23-year-old BU graduate student who was pursuing a master’s in photojournalism at the College of Communication, collided with a 16-wheel tractor-trailer at about 8:30 a.m. Witnesses say Weigl and the truck both were traveling east on Comm Ave and collided when the truck made a wide right turn onto St. Paul Street. The accident is being investigated by the Boston Police Department, which cordoned off the area and closed Comm Ave eastbound. Police said Weigl was wearing a helmet and traveling in a marked bike lane. No citations have been issued.

“Chris was just a great guy,” says Sarah Ganzhorn (COM’13), a fellow graduate student in COM’s photojournalism program. “He was always smiling. He was just a really chill guy who never had anything negative to say about anything.”

Peter Smith (COM’80), a COM senior lecturer in journalism, who taught Weigl’s multimedia class, says Weigl was an extraordinary student. “He came in with a lot of strong photography skills,” Smith says. “He also had a lot of social concerns, and he had a tremendous work ethic. He was one of the best graduate students I’ve had here; he took responsibility for all of his work and met every deadline. He was the kind of student you hope for.”

BU President Robert A. Brown sent a note about the tragedy to the BU community Thursday afternoon, saying the thoughts and prayers of all of the BU community go out to the family and friends who are experiencing this terrible loss. Brown said University officials responsible for public safety will work with Boston public officials to better understand the causes of this accident.

“We are very concerned about the dangers faced by members of our community who must navigate the streets on and near our campus, especially bicyclists and pedestrians,” said Brown. “As we identify ways in which education and changes in practice can reduce risks, we will take all necessary and possible steps to do so.”

Weigl is the second BU cyclist to die in a collision with a motor vehicle in less than a month and the fifth bicyclist killed in Boston this year. On November 12, Chung-Wei Yang (CAS’15) was killed when he was struck by a number 57 MBTA bus at the busy Allston intersection of Harvard Avenue and Brighton Avenue.

Marsh Plaza candlelight vigil for students killed in bicycle accidents, Christopher Weigl, Chung-Wei Yang, fatal bicycle bike crash accident on Commonwealth Avenue Boston

Students gathered on Marsh Plaza Thursday night for a candlelight vigil in honor of Christopher Weigl, Chung-Wei Yang (CAS’15), and other victims of recent bicycle accidents. Photo by Vernon Doucette

Between January 1 and November 13, 2012, Boston Emergency Medical Services responded to 579 bicycle-related incidents. The Boston Globe reports that Dot Joyce, spokeswoman for the mayor’s office, says that city transportation officials will investigate the circumstances of the crash.

Weigl grew up in Southborough, Mass., where he was an Eagle Scout, and he graduated from Skidmore College in 2011. There, he was president of the Photo Club and photography editor of the student daily news website, Skidmore News. He was also a student photographer for Skidmore’s communications department, where he was nominated as employee of the year as a senior, as well as a freelance photography intern at Panorama magazine and a freelance photographer for MetrowestDaily News.

Weigl’s website attests to his extraordinary eye and his versatility as a photojournalist. He was as adept at covering the performing arts, architecture, and sports as he was at shooting portraits, weddings, and images of the natural world. He had spent much of the past few months covering the 2012 presidential campaign. A vivid portrait of President Obama at a rally on September 7 in Portsmouth, N.H., is among the more memorable images in his portfolio.

His website also reflects his love of travel. Images from his trips to New Zealand and South America in 2007, Italy in 2010, and Cambodia and Thailand in 2011 feature prominently in his portfolio.

“Photojournalism is a ticket to curiosity, a way to explore the world, meet people doing interesting things, and share their work with others,” Weigl wrote on his website. “Photography has the unique ability to tell the story of a moment in time that will never be relived. From the wedding day to a simply human-interest story, the capture of emotion in a split-second is a truly powerful, almost magical ability.”

Among the last photographs he posted to his Instagram account were black-and-white images he took on Wednesday of workers mounting the annual holiday toy train display at Boston’s South Station.

The last project Weigl completed for Smith’s multimedia class was on the Lucy Stone House, a Unitarian Universalist cooperative in Roxbury, Mass.

“When we found out during class that Chris had been killed, I decided to show the video,” Smith says. “Chris showed so much sensitivity and so much empathy toward his subject in that video. His professionalism was beyond expectation. He was a good storyteller, and that’s the most important skill you can have as a journalist. And he loved what he did.”

Ganzhorn agrees, saying, “It seemed like he was born to his profession. It came so easily to him. Every shot was beautiful, and the connections he made with his subjects just seemed natural and easy. He was easy to trust.”

Weigl had expressed interest in working for a wire service, she says, such as the Associated Press or Reuters, or for the company Getty Images. He also wanted to spend more time working overseas.

“Chris was a photojournalism student, but he came to us as an already talented photographer and videographer,” says Thomas Fiedler (COM’71), dean of COM. “He was a common sight around our buildings behind a camera, taking photos of our student activities and our freshmen. He was very popular. Chris loved what he wanted to do—photography.”

A memorial service will be held on Sunday, December 16, at 2 p.m. at the First Congregational Church in Holliston, 725 Washington St. Visitation will be on Saturday, December 15, from 3 to 7:30 p.m. at the Chesmore Funeral Home of Holliston, 854 Washington St., Route 16. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to the Boston University College of Communication, and designated for the Christopher Weigl Memorial Fund. The fund is intended to create opportunities for photojournalism students to “continue Christopher’s work,” helping them to discover the wonder of creating the pictures that tell a story. Donations can be made here.

Counseling is also available through the Dean of Students Office and from:

38 Comments
Art Jahnke

Art Jahnke can be reached at jahnke@bu.edu.

38 Comments on Student Cyclist Killed on Comm Ave

  • Deborah Silverman on 12.06.2012 at 4:24 pm

    Mr. Weigl had accomplished so much in his short life. What a talent, and I know he wanted to do so much more. My heart goes out to him and to his family. I am deeply saddened for those whom loved him.

    There are way too many bicyclist and bus related accidents! I hope the City of Boston can do something to stop that from occurring anymore. Too many deaths – what a waste!

  • kERI on 12.06.2012 at 5:29 pm

    Condolensces to Family n Friends….

  • Jean on 12.06.2012 at 6:18 pm

    Thank you for including the video done by his classmate. It is simply heart wrenching, but a beautiful tribute and opportunity to “meet” Christopher. Deepest sympathy for his grieving family.

  • Brad Fernandes on 12.06.2012 at 6:54 pm

    I had the honor to know Chris for the past few months. What an outstanding student and human being. He was talented and respectful to everyone around him. I will miss his visits to my office to talk about the latest cameras and photo equipment.

  • Rebecca on 12.06.2012 at 7:02 pm

    I’m so sorry the world has lost this sensitive and thoughtful young man. I was a grad student at BU and sometimes rode my bike to classes…I wish for his family and friends to know that the world cares that we lost this young man. More should be done by the school to male cyclists and pedestrians safe. The campus is divided by a very busy road. Shouldn’t the school protect their students better? I’m so sorry for this loss and I wish the family peace, somehow.

    • Anonymous on 12.06.2012 at 11:12 pm

      How could you honestly expect the school to do more? Is that everyone’s first reaction, blame the school?

      What would you like the school to do, buy Comm Ave and turn it in to a pedestrian mall?

      • K.O on 12.07.2012 at 2:12 pm

        Honestly that would be amazing (although unrealistic)

    • Rachel on 12.07.2012 at 7:57 am

      I think the university does do a lot with bike safety programs, awareness days/weeks, free helmets, etc, but at the end of the day, they can only do so much, the students are adults, and the City of Boston has control over all public roads like Comm Ave. If people want something done about the road (safer bike lanes, perhaps?), they should write to the mayor or governor, because those offices are the only ones that can do anything about Comm Ave. Short of prohibiting biking on campus–which I don’t think anyone wants–the university is already doing basically everything they CAN do.

      http://www.bu.edu/bikesafety/

      • Vivian on 12.07.2012 at 1:04 pm

        As the parent of a BU alum, I find this very disturbing. I see cyclists in NYC riding responsibly and irresponsibly all the time.
        It is time for BU to discourage students from riding on Comm Ave until there is a better solution. I am an avid cyclist, but safety comes first.

      • Local Girl on 12.10.2012 at 8:55 pm

        I just would like it to be known that because of this tragedy, the Boston City Councilors had put bicycle safety put at the top of the agenda for their daily meeting hours after this occurred. They are discussing different tactics to rearrange the bike lanes and make them safer. One of these ideas being switching the parking lanes with the bike line – as such: sidewalk, bike lane, parking spots, travel lanes. If anyone is interested in these city meetings, you can find information online at CityofBoston.gov. The Boston City council meetings are open to the public and people are encouraged to attend.

        But unfortunately we must remember, tragedy can occur at any time. My thoughts are with Chris’ family and friends.

  • Micham on 12.07.2012 at 12:01 am

    I’ve met Chris just once, but I can assure you that this guy was a very talented photograph, always smiling and joking. All my condolensces to family and friends. I’m just speechless …

  • Urvi Amlani on 12.07.2012 at 3:45 am

    My sympathies and prayers for both the families. May God give them strength during this difficult time! Two fatal accidents within a month is totally unacceptable. As a parent of a BU student, this greatly worries me and I hope all the colleges nearby, the BU officials as well as the BU community unite in their efforts in making the Boston streets safer for the students and take all necessary steps to make sure this never happens again.

    • G on 12.07.2012 at 10:53 am

      While BU can work to educate its students relative to safe cycling, there is little else it can do besides put pressure on the City of Boston to make the roads safer cyclists. Since the University doesn’t own Commonwealth Ave (nor 99% of the rest of the roads around campus), it can’t physically or legally do anything to make the streets safer.

  • GS on 12.07.2012 at 5:51 am

    Such a terrible loss to the BU community and to the world too … sympathies to the family and friends of this young man.

  • Hyeouk Chris Hahm on 12.07.2012 at 7:17 am

    I am so saddened by Chris Weigl’s sudden death. This short video beautifully shows what kind of person he was. He was sensitive, passionate, exploratory, and hard working person that our BU community always wanted to have. My prayers are with his family who are grieving with loss, sadness, and confusion….

  • AM on 12.07.2012 at 8:17 am

    What a terrible tragedy. Our hearts go out to everyone affected in this terrible event. We should honor this man’s memory by making sure that accidents like this don’t happen again. In the coming weeks we need to start to discuss how we can better ensure the safety of our city’s cyclists.

  • a bicyclist, too on 12.07.2012 at 8:19 am

    This is beyond sad…to lose a son, a brother, a friend, so full of passionate purpose and talent. The world cries. His remarkable photos will endure and find an even higher purpose with time, I think.

    Rest well beautiful Chris, and may your family find peace.

  • Mirtha Cbello on 12.07.2012 at 8:29 am

    My deepest condolences to Chris’s family and frieds; I didn’t know Chris but I am sure I ran into him in the busy rush hours of BU between classes. What a wonderful person. Thank you so much for sharing his video. He’s a messenger from God and I am praying for his eternal rest in the Kindong of God. What a loss…We need to do something to protect the young lives of our students.

  • Anne Marie Rezendes on 12.07.2012 at 8:49 am

    Thoughts and prayers to the family and friends.

  • Sue on 12.07.2012 at 8:52 am

    Condolences to his family and friends. Such a sad thing at this time of year. Passing by the intersection this morning, I blessed myself and said a quick prayer. May you rest in peace.

  • NAS on 12.07.2012 at 9:31 am

    From the Creator we came, to the Creator we return, and in the Creator we put our trust. Prayers for the departed, his family and even the truck driver. Soooo sad.

  • A friend on 12.07.2012 at 9:55 am

    Thank you for moving his video to the very top of the page. His opening comments in the interview really characterizes his personality – and his easy laugh and easy smile should be everyone’s first introduction to him, in death as it was in life.

  • SG on 12.07.2012 at 10:18 am

    This is a tragedy. Our condolences. Boston needs to go beyond adding lanes for cyclists. I hope some details will be released to help prevent future accidents — did the driver turn right when he should not have? did he not see the cyclist?

  • Mara Feld on 12.07.2012 at 10:22 am

    How can life be so cruel? One minute you watch your son graduate from college and take a step into the real world to make a difference… How can we be so fragile, so momentary? I was on my way to work yesterday morning, I saw what happened, and now I am changed. I am still praying for Chris, his family, his teachers, his friends from BU, Skidmore, and all those who knew and cherished Chris. Perhaps it is time for Boston to target these areas with a high incidence of bicycle accidents. Build a concrete wall to shelter the riders, like the concrete walls sheltering the people waiting for the T. Maybe build a slightly raised path, that is chained, so bikers can have their own pathway. Everyone walks/runs/drives/bikes/buses/trains…everyone is in a rush…and for what? Maybe Chris and Victor can leave a legacy that will save future bikers?

  • Compassion on 12.07.2012 at 10:51 am

    I mourn the loss of Christopher as someone who has never met him. I hope the best for his family and friends at this time

  • Gerald Denis on 12.07.2012 at 10:58 am

    As a BU professor and mentor to many students (not in photojournalism though), I am very upset by this tragedy. It feels like something terrible that has happened to my own son.
    Will there be a memorial service for friends and BU colleagues? If so, I hope there will be a general announcement, or can a friend of his on this list please keep me posted?

    • Arthur W Jahnke on 12.07.2012 at 11:21 am

      Information about a memorial service will be posted on BU Today when arrangements have been made.

  • A COM grad, too on 12.07.2012 at 10:59 am

    R.I.P

    I am so sorry…

  • Fellow Terrier on 12.07.2012 at 11:02 am

    What a powerful video. I regret that I was never able to meet Chris, he seems like a beautiful person. It is an injustice that he is not able to continue touching the lives of so many around the world. Although I didn’t know him, and I am persuing a much different field that photojournalism, I strongly identify with his mission to find a story behind the faces of people around the world. I hope he knows that myself and countless others this story has touched will continue to carry out his mission and help him to keep leaving his mark on this world. Rest in peace, and prayers to the family of this wonderful person.

  • Jody, high school classmate on 12.07.2012 at 11:13 am

    I always admired Chris’s respect for others, both as a person and from behind his camera. He never felt to me to be ‘behind’ the camera, in fact, but really right there with his subjects, with you. And it’s terrifyingly sad to hear that he’s no longer here with us. I can barely imagine the grief those close with him must be feelings. Rest in peace, Chris.

  • Catherine on 12.07.2012 at 12:42 pm

    My most genuine, heartfelt sympathy goes out to Chris’ family, friends and classmates, as well as all those individuals affected by this tragedy. Although I don’t know any of you, I hope you know that you are in my prayers, and, as is evident by this string of responses, the prayers of many others.

    While we can’t make sense of something so terribly sad, I hope we can come together as a community to support those so deeply affected by Chris’ death. I hope that we may also work with our greater Boston community to figure out a way to prevent more of these devastating accidents from occurring.

  • ashmc on 12.07.2012 at 2:00 pm

    My thoughts and prayers go out to family and friends of this wonderful young man.

  • Linda B on 12.07.2012 at 4:16 pm

    My deepest condolences to the family of this bright and talented young man. Such a tremendous loss. My heart goes out to you.

    from another BU parent

  • Vickie - BU mom on 12.07.2012 at 6:35 pm

    My heart breaks for Chris’ family. A few weeks ago my biking daughter was hit by a car at the same intersection. Thank God, she is ok. Tragically, Chris and Chung-Wei Yang were not so fortunate. I don’t know what the answer is but it is obvious that something needs to change before we lose more of our precious young people.

  • MD, BU parent on 12.08.2012 at 8:42 am

    Thoughts and prayers for the family,friends and Boston University community.
    There is the need to protect all, bicyclists and pedestrians, along the BU corridor. Hopefully BU police together with Boston police and community leaders will take corrective measures to enforce awareness of the bike lanes and pedestrians. There are signs to be aware of the T along the tracks at intersections, what about signs and lights along the Commomwealth for motorists to be aware of bikes and pedestrians..We all share the road and need to work together. May he rest in peace, but what a loss for the world as we grieve the loss.

  • Mo on 12.08.2012 at 10:55 am

    My heart aches for Chris ‘ family, friends, & colleagues. Sarah, thanks for letting us get a glimpse of what a wonderful spirit Chris was. Such a senseless tragedy and loss for so many. RIP Chris! prayers sent and for his family as well. God Bless.

  • PAUL on 12.09.2012 at 5:16 am

    SO SORRY FOR YOUR CLASSMATE.That God protect him

  • Cheryl on 12.10.2012 at 12:58 pm

    Such a tragedy, my heart goes out to his family, friends and the B.U. Community. The City of Boston absolutely needs to do something in order to keep the bikers, pedestrians and the motorists safe. I believe there needs to be more bike safety classes for everyone that is on the road. Sometimes it’s difficult to see the bikers, so therefore the bikers need to take more responsibility when it’s dark, and rainy. I check 3, 4 or 5 times in both my rear view, and side mirrors before making a turn because I’m so afraid that a biker is going to come out of nowhere, and I certainly wouldn’t want to be the cause of someone’s injuries or even death such as it was in this case. Also, the bikers need to have more courtesy for the pedestrians, I’ve seen two pedestrians knocked over by bikers who couldn’t be bothered to stop for them at a crosswalk, so the pedestrians are in danger of injuries from those on bikes that have no regard for them. It’s a dangerous situation all around, and everyone needs to pay extra attention to their surroundings when on the road whether it be a motorist, bicyclist, or a pedestrian for everyone’s safety. And, the bike paths that have been painted by the City of Boston up by the B.U. Bridge are an accident waiting to happen. May Chris rest in peace, another angel in heaven.

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