Students remember tragedy

Michael Lewis

One year ago, a car accident claimed the lives of three Kent State students.

Brandon Butler, Eric Citino and Chelsea Lausberg were killed while driving back from a West Branch High School wrestling match. They had gone to see Citino’s younger brother wrestle. Megan Daum, 20, of Marysville, was the lone survivor of the crash.

Citino’s car collided with a Ford pickup truck at the intersection of Beloit Snodes Road and state Route 14, according to the Canfield State Highway Patrol. The truck driver, Michael Nelson, 42, of Salem, was not harmed in the accident.

Holding on to memories

Since that night, their memory carries on in the hundreds of lives touched by their passing. Many strangers became friends as they celebrated the lives of these three students together.

“It’s been amazing how an accident with three kids could have affected hundreds of people,” said Lisa Butler, Brandon’s mother. “Everybody says time heals, but it hasn’t started healing yet.”

Lausberg was a freshman cheerleader for Kent State. The cheerleaders and dance team wore ribbons last year to honor her memory. Citino and Butler were brothers of the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity and had spent the weekend before the accident preparing for fraternity initiation. The families of Lausberg and Citino were unavailable for comment.

John Teitz, former president of Sigma Phi Epsilon, said the fraternity shut down for a couple of weeks following the accident. Teitz, who graduated in December 2005 with a degree in criminal justice, said the fraternity brothers helped each other cope with the loss and get through that semester of classes.

“I was happy I could be there for my brothers,” Teitz said. “We appreciate all the support the university gave us, along with the other fraternities and sororities.”

This past November, 12 fraternity brothers and friends of Butler and Citino from Sigma Phi Epsilon visited the Butler family’s home in Woodsfield for a farming experience. The guys spent the weekend doing chores and helping Brandon’s father, Marvin, build fences to enclose 40 head of cattle.

Brent Ellis, president of Sigma Phi Epsilon, said he had a wonderful time. The senior business major said it was an experience he will not forget.

“They took us in like we were their own,” Ellis said. “We’re planning a trip in June. Marvin’s going to take us frog-gigging.”

Apparently, it involves someone holding a spear while someone else holds a flashlight hunting for frogs, Ellis said. More than likely, it is a group activity as others provide moral support.

A year later

Last year, 19 students from Kent State lost their lives. That number surpasses any year in the university’s history.

“There’s 19 other families going through what we’re going through,” Lisa said.

The Butlers will be planting a tree on campus to honor the three friends. They spent last Sunday with some of the fraternity brothers as they traveled to the accident site for the first time.

“They had my husband (Marvin) join their fraternity as a renaissance man,” Lisa said. “Marvin has got to go up and do the rituals.”

Ellis said the fraternity established the Citino-Butler award. The award, set on a wooden paddle, is given to the person who shows outstanding achievement in the fraternity. It hangs on the wall in their living room next to Brandon and Eric’s memorial picture. Last year, Tietz was first to receive the honor.

“With the new freshmen, the one thing we press on them was who Brandon Butler and Eric Citino were,” Ellis said. “We talk about them all the time. We won’t forget how they affected us.”

The Butlers plan to meet up with the fraternity when they place three white crosses bearing the names of each student at the crash site to serve as a memorial.

“Maybe Marvin can do his rituals then,” Lisa said. “I wonder what they’ll have him do.”

Contact safety reporter Michael Lewis at [email protected].