Duke law mourns student killed in crash

Apr. 02, 2013 @ 02:58 PM

Members of Duke University’s law school class of 2013 gathered Tuesday for their official class picture.

It was a time of excitement, with graduation finally only a little more than a month off. But it was also a time of sadness. One member of the class wasn’t there.

The law school is mourning the death of third-year student Andrew Katbi, who was one of three people killed in a massive chain-reaction crash Sunday that involved nearly 100 vehicles along a mountainous, foggy stretch of Interstate 77 near the North Carolina-Virginia state line.

Katbi, from Delphos, Ohio, was returning to Durham from a camping trip when he was involved in the crash near the base of Fancy Gap Mountain. Dense fog created poor driving conditions leading to the massive pileup on the mountain road just after 1 p.m.

“Things have definitely been pretty somber around here,” said Jason Belk, assistant dean for student affairs at the law school. “It was particularly difficult [at the class picture gathering] when they were balancing the grieving process with the excitement of the moment.”

After the class members posed for their picture, they stopped and paused for a moment of silence to remember Katbi, Belk said.

In a message to members of the Duke law community, Dean David Levi said that Katbi will be “remembered by his friends and classmates as someone who cared deeply about those around him.”

The dean said the third-year student always pushed himself and those around him to a higher level “whether working to defend indigent clients, contributing to legal scholarship through research assistance, competing in intramural athletics or spending time with friends.”

Neil Siegel, one of Katbi’s professors at the law school, called him “an excellent student and a better person. He was just as comfortable - and insightful - talking about sports as he was talking about law.”

Duke flags were lowered in honor of Katbi, the 2006 valedictorian of his Ohio high school class. He was planning to return to his home state after graduation, where he had lined up a job in Columbus with the litigation department of Baker Hostetler, a major firm there.

Last summer, he had been in Ohio for an internship with the state Public Defender’s Office, working on death penalty appeals.

According to reports, the Virginia State Police determined that the wreck that killed Katbi was one of at least 17 separate multi-vehicle collisions along 1 1/2 miles of southbound I-77. The series of collisions was at least the fifth fog-related multi-vehicle crash on that part of I-77 in the past 16 years.