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USF holds emotional ceremony for students killed in I-275 crash

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Hundreds attended memorial for USF students killed in I-275 crash Hundreds attended memorial for USF students killed in I-275 crash
Hundreds attended memorial for USF students killed in I-275 crash Hundreds attended memorial for USF students killed in I-275 crash
TAMPA, FL (WFLA) -

Losing one student would've been hard enough. But four? It's meant that many at the University of South Florida are still trying to cope.

"I don't remember a time where so many students have been tragically killed all at once," said USF President Judy Genshaft. "It's a loss for not only the families and friends. It's a loss for the institution."

Thursday afternoon, hundreds of students, faculty and family members filled a courtyard near the University's student center to remember four Sigma Beta Rho fraternity brothers killed in a Sunday crash.

Jobin Kuriakose, Ankeet Patel, Dammie Yesudhas, and Imtiyaz "Jim" Ilias were killed when an SUV driven by Daniel Lee Morris, 28, of Tampa, hit their car head on. Morris also died at the scene.

Ghan Ilias, Jim Ilias' brother, said the support the USF's student body has shown the family has kept him through an emotional time.

"I lost a brother but I have gained so much support, so many family members. It's just been overwhelming with support and love," he said right before the memorial service started.

There are constant reminders all around, though, that life has been cut short. Jim just turned 20-years old on December 27. His big brother said they have a little sister who will turn 6 next week and is still waiting on Jim to fulfill a promise he made before the accident.

"To this day she asks us 'when Jimmy is coming home. He has a present for my birthday,'" Ghan said. "It's one of the hardest questions I have to answer and I just have no words to say."

There are constant reminders of loss.

Jeremy Yesudas, Dammie Yesudhas' older brother, said coming back to campus for the memorial was hard. Jeremy, who is now 25, said he and Dammie spent time here as students together.

"It felt nauseous coming back to this campus because I could still see pictures of him riding his bike down that path," he said. "He had a good heart. It's a shame he was taken so soon."

Dammie Yesudhas was getting two degrees and was going to graduate this summer. The boy who was once a chess champion wanted to be an engineer.

Genshaft announced Thursday afternoon that USF will be honoring all four students at graduation this year. Each of the men will receive diplomas posthumously.

Dr. Thomas Miller, Vice President of USF Student Affairs, said counselors have been available for students who need it, especially those who have been past roommates or involved in fraternity life on campus.

"We had counselors on duty there all day yesterday," he said. "We had a gathering of the multicultural college fraternity council and there were 117 students at that meeting Monday night and we had 15 professional trained counselors to respond to them."

Copyright 2014 WFLA. All rights reserved.

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