The Miami University community is mourning the loss of a sophomore student it had just begun to know, as a tragic train accident claimed the life of Beth Speidel early Saturday morning.
A transfer student from Ashland University, Speidel was a speech pathology and audiology major from Strongsville, Ohio and was in her first year at Miami.
Oxford Police reported that at approximately 1:45 a.m. Saturday, April 14, a CSX Transportation freight train passed through at the 100 block of South Locust Street crossing, which has both a gate and warning lights. At approximately 3 a.m., a northbound Amtrak approached the crossing and spotted what appeared to be a body on the tracks, according to Oxford Police Sgt. Jim Squance.
“The Amtrak train stopped and verified that it was a body and the called the CSX police,” Squance said.
Squance said that the Butler County Coroner Office reported Monday that Speidel’s blood alcohol level was at .229, more than three times the legal limit.
“The next step on (OPD’s) part is to trace back her whereabouts that evening,” Squance said.
He added that as she was illegally drinking underage, OPD would potentially seek criminal charges against those who provided her alcohol Friday evening. There were no witnesses to the accident.
“We’re probably fortunate in Oxford that these type of things don’t happen more often,” Squance said, explaining the numerous incidents he has seen due to overconsumption of alcohol.
Squance also explained the rarity of this particular situation in Oxford.
“We have very few train related accidents in Oxford, for the amount of trains that go through town,” he said.
Richard Little, senior director of university communications, expressed the loss that the university feels as whole.
“A number of individuals who were close to her are obviously devastated,” Little said. “… We are all touched by this.”
Sophomore Mandy Stepowoy; who attended elementary, middle and high school with Speidel in Strongsville; said that even though she was not extremely close to Speidel, the sophomore always made a positive impression on her.
“From what I can tell you of Beth from when I would talk and hang out with her she was one of the nicest girls I have met,” Stepowoy said, via e-mail. “At first impression you might think she is a very shy girl but when you grow to know her she is the exact opposite … What I do know is that she is, was, and will forever be loved by so many people.”
Another friend of Speidel’s said that she had a great sense of humor and described times that she had stayed up until early hours of the morning talking and listening to friends.
“She just had a magnetic personality,” Speidel’s friend said.
Sophomore Maureen Grady, a close friend of Speidel’s and also a speech pathology and audiology major, said that their friendship forever changed her.
“She was such a great listener, such a good friend – if you ever needed her, she was there,” Grady said, via e-mail. “She was always the positive one – she was constantly giving encouragement and words of comfort.”
Laura J. Kelly, director of graduate studies in the department of speech pathology and audiology, explained how the speech pathology major is a tight-knit group and that the students and faculty are mourning the loss of someone who they were all just getting the opportunity to know. Kelly explained that from what she knew of Speidel, she had a strong interest in music and had been played the violin since she was in sixth grade.
“The faculty felt that she was active, a good student and engaged in class,” Kelly said. “We were just getting to know her ourselves.”
Kelly said that those interested in the speech pathology field are typically drawn to it because they want to make a difference in others’ lives, and Speidel was no different.
Jenn Dize; graduate resident director of Hahne Hall, where Speidel lived on campus; said that her resident assistants (RAs) are offering additional counseling services to those impacted by this loss.
“All (the) RAs are available, with their doors open,” Dize said. “We are especially aware of emotions this week and the following weeks.”
Squance added that he hopes students understand that immense impact of this incident and to be more responsible with alcohol use.
“Unless people get the message that you can’t consume that much alcohol and make good decisions, we will continue to see these incidents (in Oxford),” Squance said.
Anyone needing assistance in dealing with the tragedy can contact Student Counseling Services at (513) 529-4634.
A visitation for Speidel will be held from 3 to 8 p.m. April 17 at the Jardine Funeral Home in Strongsville. A funeral service will be held at 11 a.m. April 18 at the Strongsville United Methodist Church, at 13354 Pearl Rd. in Strongsville.
*Editor’s note: This article has been corrected to reflect an inaccuracy. Speidel’s blood alcohol level was .229, not .299. The Miami Student regrets this error.