The three James Madison University students killed in a Thursday night car crash in Hardy County, West Virginia, were kind, strong friends who lived their lives to the fullest, those who knew them said.

On Sunday night, members of the JMU community held a vigil to remember the lives of John "Luke" Fergusson, Nicholas Troutman and Joshua Mardis, as well as the two students who were seriously injured in the crash, Campbell Fortune and Baird Weisleder. 

"There are no words to adequately express the anguish and sorrow of this moment," said JMU President Jon Alger. 

At 10:30 p.m. on Thursday, deputies with the Hardy County Sheriff's Office responded to a single-vehicle crash on Route 259, near the West Virginia and Virginia state line. Fergusson, Troutman and Mardis died at the scene, and Fortune and Weisleder were airlifted in critical condition. Alger said Sunday that Fortune had been released from the hospital. 

The men were leaving a club in Mathias when their vehicle hit a tree, police said. The Hardy County Sheriff's Office continues to investigate.

JMU student and friend Rob Hancock said Fergusson and Troutman were like family to him.

"Though our time together was short, I felt like (Fergusson) had always been a lifelong friend," Hancock said. "I'll never forget his endless shenanigans; his ability to make anyone smile and laugh." 

Fergusson was kind and was able to connect meaningfully with people, said his friend and JMU student, Ryan Cataldo. Cataldo said he will forever cherish the memories and experiences he got to have with Fergusson. 

"His sense of humor was unmatched, and would always catch you off guard, which was the best part about it," Cataldo said. "The only thing about [Fergusson] that could beat his sense of humor is his loyalty." 

Charlie Polk, a student at Virginia Tech, read a letter he wrote to Fergusson after the crash. Polk said he knew Fergusson since they were in kindergarten together.

"You touched so many people's hearts in ways you could have never imagined," Polk said. "You were always so inclusive to everyone and brought people together that helped grow many more friendships." 

Mardis was remembered as someone who was "so excited to live every day of his life," said Quinton Robinson, a JMU student and friend.

"He was just such a good kid," Robinson said. "He always had a smile on his face." 

Robinson said Mardis was a "kind and caring individual," and cherished every moment, even the little things. He encouraged people to move forward "living like Josh."

Ryan Muncy, a JMU student and friend, recalled Mardis sending a picture of him to Robinson over the summer that said: "Hope you're doing well, keep living life to the fullest."

"And I think that's what Josh would want us to keep doing," Muncy said. 

Troutman and JMU student Trip Fishburne met when they were in the seventh grade.

"I noticed Nick was different from most kids," Fishburne said. "He was funnier, he was more energetic, he could put a smile on anyone's face and he could completely switch the mood of a room from negative to positive within seconds." 

Everyone who knew Troutman loved him, Fishburne said, and he said he'd continue to live life to the fullest, as Troutman would want people to do.

"We as a school, and a community, need to stay strong and be together right now, because that's the only way we'll ever be able to heal from this," Fishburne said. 

JMU Vice President of Student Affairs Tim Miller read statements on behalf of the victims' families. The statement from Mardis' family read that Mardis was deeply loved by all who knew him.

"While in middle school and high school ... most of his friends towered over him in height, but his fearlessness and courage lifted him higher than the very tallest among them," said the family's statement, read by Miller. 

It said that one of Mardis' most joyous days was when he received his acceptance letter into JMU.

"His humor, his sensitivity, gentle manner and kindness are his legacy, and a brilliant beacon that will continue to shine in the lives of countless people. The blessing of Joshua's life will never ever be forgotten," the statement, read by Miller, said.

The statement from the Fergusson family said that Fergusson was proud to be a Duke, and he loved his Pi Beta Chi fraternity brothers. 

"We miss his loving, gentle spirit, wise soul, infectious sense of humor and sick dance skills," the statement said. "We are comforted in knowledge that he spent his last years in this great community ... among good friends." 

One of the reasons Troutman chose to attend JMU was because the university distinguished itself as being friendly, welcoming and supporting, his family's statement read.

"In the wake of this tragedy, the characteristics that most defined your school to Nick now help to sustain our family," the statement said.

Each of the families thanked the JMU community for its support. 

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Comments are reviewed by moderators so they may not immediately appear. We appreciate your patience.