Notre Dame Graduate and Fiancé Die in Car Crash on Way to Their Wedding

Zachary Stieber
By Zachary Stieber
November 19, 2018US News
Notre Dame Graduate and Fiancé Die in Car Crash on Way to Their Wedding
Kathryn Schurtz, 35, and her fiancé Joseph Kearney died in a car crash in New Jersey on their way to their wedding on Nov. 14, 2018. (Fanwood, NJ/Facebook)

A Notre Dame graduate and her husband-to-be died in a car crash on a New Jersey interstate on their way to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, for their wedding.

Kathryn Schurtz, 35, and her fiancé, Joseph Kearney, were driving on I-78 in Berks County on Nov. 14 when a tractor-trailer hit their vehicle, pushing it into another tractor-trailer and causing a chain reaction that resulted in a multi-vehicle crash, reported NBC.

Multiple cars, including the one carrying the engaged couple, caught on fire. Traffic had gotten heavy in the wake of another crash that had happened minutes earlier, reported the Reading Eagle. No injuries were reported in that crash.

The tractor-trailer that hit their vehicle was unable to stop for traffic that had slowed to a crawl after an earlier accident. The chain reaction involved five tractor-trailers and the vehicle carrying the engaged couple.

The crash was so bad that it took firefighters and police offers working through most of the night to clean up spilled vehicle fluids, pull apart the wreckage, and divert traffic. Hamburg Fire Company Deputy Chief Jarrod Emes said roughly 25 volunteers worked late, some until 4:45 a.m. “We had crews going to three different accidents within a 12-mile stretch of I-78,” Emes said.

Schurtz and Kearney died and three other people involved in the crash were injured. Schurtz, who was residing in Jersey City and working in New York City at the time of her death, graduated from George Washington University before earning an MBA from Notre Dame.

The deaths were confirmed by the municipal government in Fanwood, where Schurtz grew up, noting that Schurtz’s mother is a former Fanwood councilwoman.

“She will be remembered for her voracious appetite for reading, love of cooking, and trailblazing new adventures with Joseph,” Schurtz’s obituary said. Her visitation was planned for Nov. 19 and a mass was planned for the next day.

Family members asked for donations to the Kathryn M. Schurtz Scholarship Fund at Union Catholic High School in Scotch Plans.

An obituary for Kearney wasn’t immediately available.

Mary Kay Heinle, an aunt to Kearney, shared pictures of the couple over the weekend.

“Our lives changed tragically last Thursday. Our nephew Joseph Kearney and his beautiful fiancé Kate Schurtz were killed in an automobile accident on their way home for their wedding to be held that day,” she wrote on Facebook.

“Our memories will help carry us through. They were truly the brightest shining lights snuffed out way too soon.”

Laura Ritter Allio said in another post that she attended Notre Dame with Schurtz, calling her “a beautiful soul who helped our program in amazing ways.”

She wrote a reminder to her loved ones to “never forget just how fragile life is. Her family was to be celebrating her wedding, not her and her fiancé’s deaths this weekend.”

The tragedy comes soon after another similar incident involving a couple whose helicopter crashed shortly after their wedding. The newlyweds were killed in the crash after they failed to clear a 1,450-foot hill.

Will Byler and Bailee Ackerman Byler left their wedding on Nov. 3, in Uvalde and crashed just 90 minutes later. The pilot, Vietnam veteran Gerald Green Lawrence, also died in the crash.

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