PLYMOUTH, N.H. – A sport utility vehicle (search) packed with 10 college women slid off a wet road, killing one, during what police say may have been part of an unsanctioned sorority's hazing ritual.
Some of the Plymouth State University (search) students were blindfolded at the time of Monday's crash, authorities said. Police said the driver may have intentionally swerved just before the crash.
Kelly Nester, 20, died after she was thrown from the vehicle, which was designed to seat five. Her funeral was held Friday morning in Coventry, R.I., her hometown.
"You were the best listener, the best hugger, the best friend," her sister, Kristen Nester, wrote in a letter read aloud by a family friend during the funeral. "She loved all those around her."
As many as six passengers in the SUV were blindfolded, but Nester had no blindfold on when she was found, and it was unclear whether she was a pledge or a sorority member, Police Capt. Steve Temperino said.
Police said they were investigating whether the driver, 20-year-old sorority member Nicole Dalton, was intentionally swerving or jerking the steering wheel. A woman who answered the phone Friday at a Dalton residence in Dalton's hometown of Rochester hung up.
Hazing is illegal in New Hampshire, punishable by a maximum fine of $1,000, but it was too early to say whether charges would be brought, Grafton County Attorney Rick St. Hillaire said.
The women were members and pledges of Sigma Kappa Omega (search), an unsanctioned sorority that formed in April when a handful of women broke away from the nationally recognized Alpha Sigma Alpha (search).
No one answered the door at the Sigma Kappa Omega house Thursday. A mile away at the accident site, a makeshift memorial of flowers sat on an embankment; nearby were pieces of the crashed vehicle and a broken cassette tape.
Richard Hage, Plymouth's vice president for student affairs, told a news network on Friday that "hazing at this level is not common at all" at the university, which has about 4,300 full-time students and is nestled in the foothills of the White Mountains in northern New Hampshire.
Some students, however, said hazing at Plymouth is widespread and often brutal.
"I had a guy who lived in my hall that would come back with black eyes," said senior Rachel Lastoff.
"It's not something you can stop," she said. "Hazing is something that's not talked about. But if anything is said, the school will deny it."