UMass student Matthew Schiek of New Jersey, high school hockey player, victim of Route 9 accident in Belchertown



Last modified: Friday, March 06, 2015

BELCHERTOWN — A mechanical engineering student at the University of Massachusetts Amherst who helped lead his high school hockey team to a championship on the New Jersey shore has been identified as the man killed while walking across Route 9 early Saturday morning.

Matthew T. Schiek, 20, of Freehold, New Jersey, was pronounced dead at the scene after being struck by a pickup truck at 1:48 a.m. on Route 9 near Two Ponds Road, according to the Northwestern district attorney’s office.

The crash, which closed Route 9 for four hours, remains under investigation by Massachusetts State Police assigned to the Northwestern district attorney’s office, the state police Collision Analysis and Reconstruction Section and Belchertown Police.

The identity of the driver, who was traveling east at the time Schiek was hit, has not been released publicly. The motorist has cooperated with the investigation, said Mary Carey, a spokeswoman for the district attorney’s office. She added that drugs, alcohol and erratic operation do not appear to have been contributing factors in the crash.

Donald L. Fisher, head of the mechanical and industrial engineering department at UMass, wrote in an email Monday, “We are all terribly saddened by this tragedy.”

Schiek’s friends at UMass and roommates at an off-campus home in North Amherst issued a statement Monday night in which they said that Schiek, a member of the Commonwealth Honors College, was committed to his studies, maintaining a 3.9 grade point average during his junior year, and the Amherst community, through volunteering with the Boltwood Project, which assists mentally and physically challenged individuals.

The friends described Schiek as having an appreciation for nature, often hiking the Holyoke Range or swimming at Puffer’s Pond, and music, playing his guitar around campfires last summer.

“He was a great student, athlete, musician, but most of all an amazing friend. He leaves behind dozens of friends who consider themselves honored to have spent time with such a remarkable young man.” The statement was signed by Steve Bazant, Wesley Thompson, Keegan Downie, Nikhil Kyathappala, Alex Abraham and Shane Ryan.

UMass spokesman Edward Blaguszewski said anytime there is a student death, campus officials make counseling services available.

“This is a terrible tragedy and our thoughts and prayers go out to his family,” Blaguszewski said.

Many of Schiek’s former teammates for the Howell High School Rebels in New Jersey quickly used Twitter to offer condolences as word spread about his death. In March 2009, Schiek helped lead the Howell hockey team to the Shore Conference Dowd Cup in its first varsity season.

Frankie Gerbasi, a freshman at West Virginia University, said Monday he is grateful for how Schiek, then a junior in high school, took him under his wing four years ago. “He was one of the first ones to take me in and show me the ropes,” Gerbasi added.

Gerbasi described Schiek as a smart teammate who was interested in pursuing a career in mechanical engineering.

Stephen Reu, who identifies himself as a junior hockey player and part-time student, is one former teammate who offered his thoughts on Twitter: “R.I.P. Matt Schiek it was a pleasure playing so many years with you brother, teammate for life rest easy.”

William Sarnov, a former Howell player who now attends St. John’s University, did likewise: “Life is fragile, never take it for granted. R.I.P. Matthew Schiek, an amazing teammate and an amazing person.”

Schiek’s favorite professional team was the New Jersey Devils.

Although he did not play on the UMass hockey team, Schiek did suit up last spring in the Mullins Center Adult Hockey League, which allows students and community members to play in competitive hockey games.

Schiek leaves his parents, Richard and Randi, and a sister, Rachael.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.




 


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