College student dies after complaining of `head rush,' dizziness and leg pain

Cause of his death not yet determined

October 10, 1999|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

A Frostburg State University sophomore died suddenly Thursday, stricken while he was on the phone with his Westminster girlfriend after complaining of a "head rush," dizziness and leg pain.

Trenton B. "Trent" Reightler, 19, a Westminster High School graduate and soccer star, usually talked to Laura Harrison every day. The two were making weekend plans during a midnight phone call when Reightler complained of the ailments, said Harrison, a 16-year-old Westminster senior.

Reightler dropped the phone, but Harrison kept the line open and tried to call for help on the family's other phone line.

One of Reightler's roommates apparently heard the commotion and called 911, while another, Adam Barnett, administered cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

Barnett, also a Westminster High alumnus, later kept in phone contact with Harrison from Sacred Heart Hospital in Cumberland. It was Barnett who told her when Reightler was pronounced dead at 1: 55 a.m.

"Adam told me they couldn't get Trent's heart to start, that they couldn't revive him," said Harrison. "He kept calling me from the hospital, too. Then, he told me Trent had died."

The state medical examiner's office in Baltimore completed an autopsy Friday, but has not yet established a cause of death.

"It is pending further investigation," said Dennis Chute, a state medical examiner.

Harrison and Reightler had been dating since they met on the soccer field in high school. She was a cheerleader and he wore No. 7 on the varsity soccer team. They drifted apart when he left for Frostburg last year but reconnected over the summer, she said.

This year they had kept in touch. She had visited him at the Western Maryland university last Sunday and had found him "fine and happy."

It was a little odd that he called at midnight, she said. "I was really tired, but he insisted on staying on the phone. He said he really wanted to come home, and that he missed everybody."

Reightler had sprained his ankle playing volleyball about two weeks ago, and he told Harrison the injury still bothered him.

"He was always really healthy; that is why this is really weird," Harrison said.

At the university, news of the death spread quickly among the 5,000 students. By 7 a.m. Friday, when university spokesman Ty DeMartino arrived at his office near the student union, posters mourning the loss of a friend were already hanging. Many said, "Trent, you will always live in our hearts."

The school also posted notices of the death with available details. Students stopped in large numbers to read them, said DeMartino.

"It is a real mortality check when a peer dies," said DeMartino. "It makes everyone stop and think. People are moving a lot slower here today. Many are visibly shaken. There are hugs and tears."

School security has done an initial investigation of Reightler's off-campus housing and interviewed roommates and friends. The student was a member of Omega Epsilon, a local fraternity that is not affiliated with the university.

"We have concluded that no drugs or alcohol was involved," said DeMartino.

Reightler chose Frostburg because he did not want to be too far from his family. His mother, Terry Saylor Bowen, and stepfather live in Westminster. His father, Robert Reightler, and stepmother live in Hampstead. He had not selected a major, but was considering prelaw, said Harrison.

"He really cared about people," she said. "If anybody had a problem, they would go to him. He would always try to help."

Services are at 11 a.m. tomorrow at Pritts Funeral Home and Chapel, 412 Washington Road, Westminster. The family suggests memorial contributions to the Boys Soccer Scholarship fund at Westminster High School, 1225 Washington Road, Westminster 21157.

In addition to his parents, Reightler is survived by a brother, Tony Reightler; grandparents Sterling and Ione Saylor, and Virginia Cross, all of Westminster, and Sally and John DeFries of West Virginia; stepsisters Kelsey Bowen, Amy and Katie Reightler; and stepbrother, Robbie Reightler.

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