‘Our hearts ache’: Probe underway into death of lacrosse recruit from Mass. at Lafayette College

The 19-year-old from Weston died Monday in Pennsylvania.

McCrae Williams.
McCrae Williams. –Facebook

Communities in Massachusetts and Pennsylvania are mourning the sudden death of a 19-year-old lacrosse player just two weeks after he started classes for his first year of college.

McCrae Williams, of Weston, Massachusetts, died late Monday, according to a statement from Lafayette College in Pennsylvania, where he was enrolled in the Class of 2021.

College President Alison Byerly said in a statement that the teen was taken to Easton Hospital on Sunday afternoon for a medical emergency and then transported to Lehigh Valley Hospital, where he later died.

Authorities are investigating his death. An autopsy performed Wednesday revealed the cause of his death as “blunt force head injuries,” Lehigh County Coroner Scott Grim said in a statement.  

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“Upon completion of the investigation and toxicology test results, I will rule the manner of death,”  he said.

The school of about 2,500 students held a vigil Tuesday evening on its campus, which sits about 75 miles north of Philadelphia on the border of New Jersey.

“McCrae Williams had time to make his mark,” Byerly told a group of students gathered at the event.

She said she’d spoken with the young man’s father and was able to tell him the “many stories from some of you who have spoken with me about McCrae, his life here, things you enjoyed about him, what a great friend he was turning out to be even in the few weeks that you had been together.”

The college president said even though the teen from Weston had only just started at Lafayette, he’d “already become a part of the community and that that community was going to mourn his loss.”

Both his parents were with him when he died, she said.

Members of the college lacrosse team were among the about 300 students attending the vigil, according to LehighValleyLive, but Williams’s teammates declined to comment on his death to the publication’s reporters.

Morgan Pichard, a freshman from Massachusetts, told The Morning Call she was introduced to Williams Friday.

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“It is upsetting,” she told the newspaper. “I really don’t know how to handle it.”

What are the authorities saying?

Police in Easton and college public safety officers responded to a report of a medical emergency on the campus around 4:22 p.m. Sunday, according to the Call. They found Williams outside Ruef Hall North, a four-story dormitory on campus.

He was pronounced dead at 5:02 p.m. Monday at Lehigh Valley Hospital.

His death is being investigated by the Lehigh County Coroner’s Office, the Northampton District Attorney’s Office, Easton police, and the college’s police department.

Prior to the autopsy, the coroner’s office told the Call that Williams had “no visible injuries.”

Northampton County Deputy District Attorney Terence Houck told the newspaper that the student was unconscious when police arrived at the scene.

“Obviously when you have a death like this, a kid this age, something’s going on, so nothing is out of play here,” Houck said.

Both the Call and LehighValleyLive report the authorities are probing whether alcohol played a role in the freshman’s death.

“Investigators believe the chain of events leading to the medical emergency call started on Saturday … in the late afternoon into evening hours,” police said in a statement to LehighValleyLive.

Catherine Hall, head of the Noble and Greenough School in Dedham where Williams graduated in 2017, said in a letter to parents, published by the Call, that Williams fell and “suffered a major head injury.”

Police have not confirmed that he fell or that he suffered a head injury.

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“We understand that a criminal investigation related to McCrae’s death is now underway,” Hall said in a statement to Boston.com.  

‘Our hearts ache’

Williams’s Facebook page says he’s originally from London, England. At the prestigious Nobles and Greenough School, he was a “three-sport” athlete, serving as a lacrosse team captain and an admissions tour guide, according to Hall’s letter to the parents.

Word of his death quickly rippled across the lacrosse community, with coaches at his former high school sharing images of him in uniform on social media.

Hall described the 19-year-old, who planned to continue playing lacrosse at Lafayette, as a “excellent student” and “a good friend to many.”

“McCrae was a talented student, tremendous athlete and a wonderful friend,” she said the statement. “Our hearts ache for McCrae’s family as they face this unfathomable loss.”