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Rye man hit, killed by train in Rome

New Hampshire Sunday News

February 22. 2014 8:22PM


Condolences are flowing from here and abroad to the family of a 21-year-old college student from Rye who was apparently hit by a train and killed in Rome last week.

John Durkin, the son of Timothy and Liz Durkin, had been reported missing on Thursday, and his father and uncle had gone to Rome to help police search for him, according to family members.

Media reports from Italy indicate that Durkin was struck and killed by a train on Thursday. His body was discovered that day in a railroad tunnel in central Rome, but was not identified until two days later.

His family confirmed Durkin's death on Saturday in a brief statement: "It is with much sadness that the Durkin Family informs you of the loss of John Nolen Durkin and thanks everyone for their support during the past few days."

Durkin was a junior at Bates College in Maine. He was studying in Rome for a semester through a program offered by Trinity College in Hartford, Conn., according to school officials.

The U.S. Department of State confirmed his death in a statement issued Saturday. "We extend our deepest condolences to his family and friends," it read. "The U.S. Embassy is providing consular assistance to his family. We have no further details to share out of respect for the family during this difficult time."The State Department referred questions about the circumstances of Durkin's death to Italian authorities.The U.S. Embassy in Rome also posted a statement of condolence on its website.

Durkin was last seen by friends in the early morning hours of Thursday in the Campo de Fiori section of Rome, according to a statement by Bates College.

His friends and family launched social media sites asking for help in finding him. Those same sites were filled with sorrowful remembrances of the young man on Saturday, including messages from top state officials.

Gov. Maggie Hassan said in a statement: "I am deeply saddened to learn of the tragic loss of John Durkin. My thoughts and prayers are with his parents, family and loved ones during this extremely difficult time."

According to Bates College officials, Durkin was an economics major with a minor in Asian studies. He was a linebacker on the football team.

Meg Kimmel, associate vice president for communications at Bates, said college officials were informed of Durkin's death late Saturday morning. "It's a heartbreaking loss for John's family and our college and everyone who knew and loved John," she said. "We just extend our deepest sense of loss and sorrow to everyone."

Head football coach Mark Harriman recalled the "fortitude and character that John displayed on a daily basis."

"John's commitment to excellence in all phases of his life was inspirational to the other members of the squad and a major factor in the team's success over the past three years," he said in a statement posted on the college website. "Our thoughts and prayers are with the Durkin family during this difficult time."

Bates College President Clayton Spencer said in a statement: "This is a time of deep sadness for our community and for so many people who knew and loved John. We are profoundly sad and share the tremendous grief of his family."

Two of Durkin's siblings also attended the college: Frederick "Ted" Durkin, who graduated in 2011, and Clare Durkin, Class of 2012.

Bates students are on winter break. Kimmel said the college will "make any plans for remembering John after we talk with his family."

In a statement, Trinity College President James F. Jones Jr. said the circumstances of Durkin's death had not been released but it "appears to have been an isolated incident." He said counseling will be made available to Trinity and Bates students studying abroad in Rome as well as on the Hartford campus.

Other political leaders posted messages of sympathy to the Durkin family.

U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., posted on her Facebook page: "Tragic news about Rye student John Durkin. My thoughts are with his family during this difficult time."

U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., wrote: "My heart goes out to the family & friends of John Durkin. They are all in our thoughts & prayers."

And Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, D-N.H., whose district includes Rye, posted: "So sorry to hear the very sad news of John Durkin's death. My thoughts and prayers are with his family and all those who loved him."

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