Midshipman killed in motorcycle accident is buried Jeff Landrum, 20, died while visiting family over Thanksgiving break

December 04, 1997|By Neal Thompson | Neal Thompson,SUN STAFF

A Naval Academy midshipman was laid to rest yesterday in his hometown of Lynchburg, Va., four days after he died from injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident while at home with his family for Thanksgiving.

Jeff Landrum, 20, had been a star quarterback during his high school years in Lynchburg.

Top East Coast colleges had recruited him heavily, but he turned his back on what he called the "used-car talk" of mainstream colleges and chose the Naval Academy. He had hoped to enter the Marine Corps after graduation in 1999.

Landrum was a junior at the academy.

While riding a motorcycle last Friday afternoon through a residential neighborhood in Forest, in southwest Virginia, Landrum apparently lost control and struck a brick column at the end of a driveway. He died the next day.

A friend who had been riding on the back of the motorcycle received minor injuries.

Both men were wearing helmets.

Virginia State Police Sgt. Bobby Ratliff said yesterday that Landrum might have been driving the 1995 Suzuki at more than twice the speed limit -- 50 mph in the 25-mph residential zone.

As midshipmen returned this week from their four-day Thanksgiving break, word spread quickly that they had lost a classmate. Nearly 100 members of Landrum's company -- one of the 36 subsets at the 4,000-student academy -- drove to Lynchburg for the funeral. A memorial service was being planned for 2 p.m. Monday in the academy's chapel.

"He truly was a nice, nice man. He just lit up a room when he walked in," said Elizabeth Kucik, an academy spokeswoman and a friend of Landrum. Kucik's husband, Jeb, who graduated from the academy last year, also knew Landrum and was his platoon commander last year. "When you met him, you felt like his friend," Elizabeth Kucik said.

Landrum was one of three freshman midshipmen -- or plebes -- featured in a Washington Post article last year, about what life was like during their first year at the academy in 1995. He told the paper that he chose the Naval Academy because officials there didn't try to sugar-coat the demanding life of its officers in training.

"At least they were honest. They didn't say, 'It's cake,' " he said.

Apparently, it wasn't. Although Landrum played varsity football as a freshman, he was injured and gave up sports to focus on academics, with which he was struggling. But the extra help he needed with classes never made him second-guess his decision to go to Annapolis.

"He really loved the academy," Kucik said.

Landrum also thought the academy, on the banks of the Chesapeake Bay, was beautiful.

"We pulled through the gates, I thought, 'Whoa!' " he told the Post.

Pub Date: 12/04/97

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