MORGANTOWN - Police in Morgantown are reviewing video surveillance footage and canvassing businesses in the hopes that cameras may have caught a glimpse of the person or vehicle responsible for a hit-and-run accident Sunday that left a West Virginia University student from Harpers Ferry dead.
Meanwhile, friends, colleagues and others who knew 22-year-old Joseph Dzuris are mourning his death and expressing their condolences to his family.
At about 4:53 a.m. Sunday, the Morgantown Police Department, Morgantown Fire Department and Monongalia County emergency medical services personnel responded to a call reporting a vehicle accident involving a death on Patteson Drive, a four-lane highway and one of the busiest roads in Morgantown.
An investigation determined a vehicle was traveling east on Patterson Drive when it struck a pedestrian, later identified as Dzuris, who was in the roadway. The vehicle fled the scene after striking Dzuris, who died as a result of injuries sustained in the accident, police said.
"Detectives are pulling surveillance footage from all of the area and surrounding areas. We're pulling that footage, not just of the roadways, but also of Mr. Dzuris and how he got to be where he was at," said Morgantown Police Chief Ed Preston. "As of right now, we have no known suspects and no known vehicle descriptions, so we are putting all the stuff back together through the canvass of the area and the review of all the surveillance footage."
Jefferson High School baseball coach John Lowery remembered Dzuris as a polite, hard-working and successful student and person. Dzuris tried out for the high school's baseball team during his senior year and made the team.
"The thing that stands out in memory the most is the fact that he was a great kid. He was always polite, he was always positive and he was a great teammate," Lowery said.
Lowery said he remembers crossing paths with Dzuris after a Washington Nationals game and that Dzuris had a passion for the sport.
"He seemed to really have his life in order, doing the things that we would hope all young people with aspirations do," said Lowery. "He was successful in everything he tried. It's certainly a tragedy."
WVU issued a statement upon learning of Dzuris' death early Sunday.
"We are deeply saddened by the news of this hit-and-run tragedy that occurred on Patteson Drive early Sunday morning ... Our heartfelt sympathies go out to Joseph's family and many friends, and the countless students whose lives he touched so meaningfully," the statement read.
University officials said Dzuris was a third-year resident assistant and was completing a degree in civil engineering while working the night shift at a university residence hall. Counseling services were being made available immediately at the university. WVU Student Affairs has been in touch with Dzuris' family to offer support and comfort. A bell-ringing service in his honor will be announced at an appropriate time, officials said.
"The Residential Education community is deeply saddened by the tragic loss of one of our staff members. Joe has touched the lives of many people in his capacity as an RA and night staff member. Joe mentored students both in and outside of the classroom," said Patricia L. Cendana, WVU Director of Residential Education.
Cendana said Dzuris also served as a mentor to about 20 students in an engineering group. There was a candlelight vigil for Dzuris at 8:30 p.m. Sunday hosted by resident assistants in Brooke and Braxton towers at the university.
"My thoughts and prayers go out to family, friends and our staff as we support each other through this time of grief," Cendana said.
Ernesto Weines, a WVU area advisor and residential coordinator, said Monday he was close friends with Dzuris for more than three years and described the student as very quiet but outgoing and highly athletic.
"He used that as an avenue to build a positive connection with his residents on his floor. He made a very strong connection with those students that way. I respected him a lot for that. Some of the friendships he formed with them extended beyond their freshman year at WVU until this day," Weines said.
Weines said students and Dzuris' friends are shocked, stunned, sad and angry about the student's death and the manner in which it was caused.
"Everyone is just trying to make sense out of what happened. At the end the day, they are very sad and very shocked," Weines said.
Preston said the Morgantown Police Department is asking anyone with information about Sunday's incident to contact detectives at 304-284-7522 or their local police department.