UNC student mascot dies after accident
NEWARK, N.J. – The North Carolina student who performed as a mascot for the school’s basketball team died three days after being struck by a car before an NCAA tournament game.Jason Ray died Monday morning, said Steve Kirschner, the university’s associate athletic director for communications. He was 21.Ray had been in critical condition at Hackensack University Medical Center since the accident Friday afternoon. He was hit from behind while walking on a highway shoulder near his Fort Lee hotel after going to a nearby convenience store.Ray performed as UNC’s ram mascot, Rameses, for the past three seasons. He was scheduled to graduate in May with a major in business administration and a minor in religion. He was in New Jersey for the men’s game between North Carolina and Southern California.”Jason was a wonderful son, brother and friend,” Ray’s brother, Allen, said in a statement released by the university. “He leaves behind a legacy of friendship, laughter, excitement for life and a genuine love for all the people he touched during his all-too-short life.”No charges have been filed against the driver of the sport utility vehicle. Police said the driver stopped immediately to try to help Ray and called 911. Police also said the driver had a valid driver’s license and did not appear to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs.On Sunday, more than two dozen family members and friends held a bedside vigil for Ray. About 40 people attended a prayer session for him on the UNC campus Sunday afternoon, said Laura Ely, a UNC senior who met Ray early in their freshman year.Ely recalled in an e-mail how Ray auditioned for the mascot role.”I remember vividly Jason telling me about trying out for a position as UNC mascot,” she wrote. “He was instructed to dress up in costume and walk around the pit (a common area on campus) and interact with students as if he were at a game interacting with fans. He obviously made a good impression because he was soon accepted and began dressing for games right away.”
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