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Student Cyclist Killed on Comm Ave

COM grad student was talented photojournalist

| From BU Today | By Art Jahnke

In the video above, Christopher Weigl (COM’14) discusses his love of photojournalism. The video was produced by Sarah Ganzhorn (COM’13) for Peter Smith’s Multimedia Journalism class.

A BU student cyclist was killed on December 6 in a collision with a tractor-trailer at Commonwealth Avenue and St. Paul Street.

Christopher Weigl (COM’14), 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. 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 that 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.

Students gathered on Marsh Plaza on December 6 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 Metrowest Daily 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.”

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