In the earliest hours of the morning on Sunday Oct. 3, residents of Benfer Hall were greeted with a loud noise. Whether they were woken from sleep or up late socializing, various residents reported being shocked by the volume of the sound.
“I heard a loud bang that resembled the sound of a car hitting another car,” reported Zach Merlino ‘24.
But the damage was greater than a simple fender bender. According to Phoebe Unger ‘24, the impact “literally felt like an earthquake.” Evelyn Carlin ‘24 recalled the same, stating that she and her roommate “were just hanging out until we heard an insanely loud crash. It almost sounded like there was a mini earthquake!” This was because a car had, in fact, crashed into something – not another car, as Merlino had suspected, but the iconic exterior pillars of Benfer Hall.
“I was walking back to my suite and I noticed that all the pillars were on the ground and I noticed people,” an anonymous student source recalled. Merlino had a similar experience when he looked out his window and saw “three posts knocked into the street. Everyone was kind of just in shock as to how someone could actually manage to hit the posts. There was a lot of speculation as to whether the car backed through the posts or actually pulled into one then backed into the others.”
By the time she was able to make it to the scene, Carlin stated that “People were saying that they saw a car hit the pillar, but a car was nowhere in sight; therefore, it was a hit and run.” An anonymous student reported that campus police arrived on the scene “not only because the pillars fell but because people were apparently stealing pieces from the pillars that had fallen.” It was Merlino who called the campus safety office, stating that he “felt [he] had to call ‘Campo’ because it was a mess, so [he] told Campo someone drove into Benfer and Campo came.”
“People were saying that they saw a car hit the pillar, but a car was nowhere in sight; therefore, it was a hit and run.”– Evelyn Carlin ‘24
The Allentown Fire Department was also on the scene. According to a statement that the Housing and Residence Life office shared via email immediately following the accident, “There was a vehicle accident involving the Benfer columns early Sunday morning. There were no injuries, and the Allentown Fire Department responded. They have confirmed that the columns were not weight bearing, which means that the building is structurally sound and has been deemed safe.”
As of Monday evening, according to the Office of Communications, “In order to facilitate repairs, the Benfer drive between Trexler Pavilion and Benfer Hall will be closed to vehicle and pedestrian traffic.” Furthermore, residents of Benfer were informed by housing and residence life about restricted access to various facilities, including the front entrance, laundry, and parking directly in front of the residence hall.
“Everyone was kind of just in shock as to how someone could actually manage to hit the posts.”– Zach Merlino ’24
Though speculation has been made amongst students regarding the cause of the accident, Brian Fidati, director and chief of campus safety stated that, “This investigation is open and ongoing, with no further information available at this time.”
No injuries have since been reported in the wake of this accident. Residents of Benfer report being shaken but unharmed. Carlin, whose birthday festivities were interrupted by the crash, stated that “[As] crazy of an accident it was, I am so glad no one got hurt, and I am even more glad that the pillar wasn’t a substantial part of holding up Benfer Hall, otherwise, a lot of us would have gotten hurt.”
In the words of Unger: “It was definitely a moment we will all never forget.”