Midshipman Death Ruled Accidental by Coroner
A Pennsylvania coroner investigated the car crash that killed Naval Academy junior Austin Zalik earlier this month and ruled it an accident.
Zalik, 21, died when his pickup truck rolled from its parking spot at a gas station down a 50-foot embankment and collided with a tractor-trailer on Interstate 78 in Pennsylvania on Aug. 3. The trailer hit the driver's-side door, and pushed the truck about 200 feet.
Deputy Coroner Jonn Hollenbach told The Morning Call that the rising senior at the Naval Academy died at the scene from injuries to his head and chest.
Zalik was on summer leave from the academy. He was a member of the 9th Company and a ocean engineering major. Zalik was set to graduate in 2013 and be the captain of this year's gymnastics team. The team has not decided whether to elect a new captain.
He was interred at the Naval Acdemy in a private ceremony earlier this month.
Tests showed that Zalik had a blood-alcohol content of 0.09 at the time of his death, and Hollenach told The Morning Call that it could have been the reason Zalik stopped to sleep at the Greenwich Township service station after leaving a friend's house.
The coroner reviewed the station's surveillance cameras as part of his investigation and found that a clerk woke Zalik up at 7 a.m. and asked him to leave because his car was blocking the garbage containers. Hollenebach told The Morning Call that Zalik just drove around to another part of the lot and went back to sleep.
Zalik parked his truck in a new spot that faced a grass slope, which led down to the off-ramp of Interstate 78. A few minutes after he parked, the midshipman's car was knocked into gear and started rolling down the embankment. Hollenbach told The Morning Call that Zalik likely knocked it when he fell back asleep.
Zalik was one of two midshipmen to die this summer while on leave from the academy. The investigation into the death of Nicholas Tarr, who aslo died this August in a car crash, is still ongoing.