Dawn Uhl said her 23-year-old son, Matthew, was excited to be graduating from Rowan University next month.
But Matthew Uhl, a college senior and Little Egg Harbor Township resident, died Friday afternoon after police said he suffered a brain injury when he was struck by a vehicle at 12:30 a.m. on State Street in Glassboro.
Dawn Uhl had just returned home Friday evening from Cooper University Hospital in Camden, where her son died.
“He was ready to graduate this May. He was excited about graduation. He wanted to run his own business and be his own boss,” Dawn Uhl said.
She said she wasn’t bragging, but her son was handsome.
“I spoke to him every day. He was coming home today to get a haircut because his fraternity was having a semiformal tonight, but that was canceled,” she said.
Uhl was the treasurer of the Mu Alpha chapter of the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity at Rowan, she said. He was majoring in entrepreneurship at the university’s College of Business.
Early Friday morning, Glassboro police found Uhl unconscious and unresponsive on State Street. The vehicle and driver allegedly involved in the crash, Derrick D. Gilliam, were still on the scene, police said.
Gilliam, of Bridgeport, Conn., had an odor of alcohol on his breath and an open bottle of vodka on the floor of the back seat of his vehicle, police said. He was transported to Glassboro police headquarters, where police said “he refused to cooperate with the DWI investigation.”
Gilliam was charged with obstruction of administration of justice and taken to Kennedy Memorial Hospital in Washington Township for a mandatory blood specimen withdrawal, police said. He was then transported to the Gloucester County jail and remains there on $25,000 full cash bail.
Police said the exact circumstances surrounding the crash are still under investigation, adding more charges may be filed once toxicology results have been received.
Uhl was treated by Gloucester County EMS at the scene and staff at Underwood-Memorial Hospital MICU before being transported to Cooper, where he was listed in critical condition with a serious brain injury, police said.
Rowan University President Ali Houshmand released a statement Friday afternoon announcing Uhl’s death.
“It is such a tragedy whenever you lose anyone in these circumstances, but it seems to be even more painful when it is a young person with such promise and limitless potential. Matthew will be missed,” Houshmand said.
University spokesman Joe Cardona said Uhl died about 1 p.m.
“Counselors will meet with Matthew’s classmates, roommates, fraternity brothers and anyone else who needs support in the coming days,” Cardona said.
Crystal Gormley said she watched as the news unfolded on Facebook that Matthew Uhl, a former Pinelands Regional High School football player, was suffering from a serious brain injury. She said she thought of the brownies and cookies she baked for Matthew and his teammates when she managed the team.
Gormley is a junior at Northwood University in West Palm Beach, Fla., and said she felt helpless Friday all those miles away.
“Every time Matt was around, it was always a fun time and everyone was always laughing. He had the biggest, most gorgeous smile I’ve ever seen,” Gormley said.
She said she was going to get blood work done when she saw Matthew Uhl’s sister Caitlyn post on Facebook that she couldn’t believe this was happening to her brother.
“I started to read the comments. I was driving when I got the text that Matt was hit by a car. I got to the doctor’s office, and I was sitting there waiting and shaking,” Gormley said. “I went back to school and I just sat in my room and I cried. There was so much I couldn’t do because I am not there.”
Gormley said she told her mother she had to come home and she would get a flight Saturday morning.
“And this was all when Matt was still on life support, and then it was later in the afternoon that I started seeing on Facebook, ‘rest in peace, Matt,’ and then I lost it,” Gormley said.
Courtney Chavan, 23, of Little Egg Harbor, recalled Uhl as polite, respectful and from an “amazing” family. On Friday afternoon, she couldn’t forget about Uhl being known as handsome. Everyone joked that he looked like an Abercrombie & Fitch model, she said.
“I remember I was a year older than him, and he just came out of nowhere and we became very good friends. I came back to go with him to his senior prom in 2009,” Chavan said.
Chavan said going to The Chicken or The Egg restaurant in Beach Haven was one of Uhl’s favorite things to do. Uhl also loved his car, she said.
“His BMW was his baby,” she said.
Police said they have interviewed numerous witnesses and are working to identify a passenger in Gilliam’s car who left the scene before officers arrived. Police also charged 23-year-old Rowan University student Brian Kohler with obstruction of administration of justice for his actions at the scene of the crash.
Anyone with information regarding the unknown passenger is asked to contact Glassboro police at 856-881-1500 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cardona said Rowan’s Counseling and Psychological Services Center is available for students and anyone who wishes to speak about Uhl’s death. Counselors are available 24 hours a day and can be reached at 856-256-4222.
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