Phyo Kyaw ’10 killed by truck in traffic accident

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Phyo N. Kyaw ’10.
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Flowers and candles lay before a ghost bike memorial dedicated to Phyo Kyaw ‘10. Kyaw was hit and killed by a truck while riding his bicycle on December 27.
Tiffany Huang—The Tech

Phyo N. Kyaw ’10, 23, was killed on Dec. 27 after he was hit by a truck while riding his bicycle at the intersection of Vassar Street and Massachusetts Avenue.

At around 7:40 p.m., an oil tanker truck was turning from Mass. Ave. onto Vassar St. heading towards Main St. when it hit Kyaw. He was transported to a hospital where he was pronounced dead.

A blue bicycle could be seen crushed under the truck’s wheels in a video report from Boston’s 7 News.

Kyaw graduated MIT in 2010 with a bachelor’s in chemical-biological engineering, Course 10B. He was from Yangon, in the Southeast Asian nation of Myanmar.

According to the MIT News Office, Kyaw was a member of the Sigma Nu fraternity and involved in Camp Kesem, a summer program for children with a parent who has died of cancer. After graduating, he worked as a research scientist at Cambridge-based Soane Labs.

Kyaw’s death sparked an outpouring of support for his family on Facebook. Albert Chang ’10 organized a fundraising effort, in part via a “Friends of Phyo” Facebook page, for funeral arrangements and to return Kyaw and his belongings to Myanmar. Within a couple days of beginning the effort, says Chang, over $15,000 had been raised for the cause.

Donations from $5 to $2000 came in from diverse places. Many contributors were fellow members of the Class of 2010, while others were friends from Sigma Nu, Next House, Camp Kesem, and Soane Labs. Local members of the Burmese community, even those who didn’t know Kyaw personally, also chipped in.

“Phyo was full of life and a friend to all,” said the description on the Friends of Phyo page, “May we share our happy memories of him to keep his spirit alive.”

“This death, so tragic and so close to home, touches and concerns our entire community,” said Chancellor Eric Grimson PhD ’80 in a statement. “Our thoughts go out to Phyo Kyaw’s family, friends, and classmates. We share their sense of loss and grief.”

“Phyo was one of the first people I befriended at MIT, and everyone he touched will sorely miss the incredible level of enthusiasm and happiness that he brought to everything he was involved with,” said Chang.

A small Buddhist service was held for Kyaw at his apartment, followed by a memorial service at a funeral home in Boston last Monday. Chang says another service to be held at MIT, when more people are back on campus, is being planned.

Intersection safety?

An investigation into the crash is being led by the Middlesex District Attorney’s office, with help from Cambridge and MIT police. The truck driver was uninjured, according to 7 News. He has not been charged.

Middlesex DA spokesperson Jessica V. Pastore said that there is no clear time frame for when the investigation will be complete. It could take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months, she said. During that time, State Police will reconstruct the scene, and with the DA’s office, determine if there was criminal negligence and probable cause to charge someone.

The death has also renewed concern over the safety of the Mass. Ave./Vassar St. intersection. Since 2007, Cambridge police have responded to 55 accidents at the intersection, 24 of them involving cars and bikes, the Boston Globe reported on Monday. In 2011, the intersection ranked No. 2 in Cambridge’s top five dangerous intersections.

The Globe also published an editorial on Monday calling for changes to the intersection. “… It is clear that the intersection should be modified to make it safer for the thousands of people who pass through it every day,” wrote the Globe. “More visible traffic lights, for example, or signs cautioning drivers and bikers alike, would be a good addition.”

MIT community members who feel affected by this death are encouraged to contact Mental Health Services at 617-253-2916.

Ash about 10 years ago

The description of this horrific accident makes it clear that it was the truck driver's fault. Because if he was turning onto Vassar from Mass. Ave. then he should have clearly stopped in case of a red light or given the unfortunate cyclist the right of way in case of a green light. In either case he is to blame and I hope he is apprehended and prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

Anonymous about 10 years ago

Such a tragic and scary story. When I first came out to MIT I brought my bike with me, but I've never had the courage to ride through that intersection. Nonetheless, I have been nearly hit by cars on multiple occasions while crossing with a walk signal, including at least twice now by police vehicles (without their emergency lights on).

Adam Duston almost 10 years ago

As a Cambridge bicyclist I'd like to say that it's unfortunate the article didn't include more details of the logistics of the accident. Such details are a significant source of education for bicyclists and could easily help to prevent similar accidents in the future. One might go so far to say that the article is doing a disservice to Mr. Kyaw's memory by failing to help others avoid simliar accidents.

Mark almost 10 years ago

The accident was at the corner of two designated truck routes that Cambridge City "engineers" made too tight for trucks to turn back in 2003. Also contributing in the dark, rainy conditions is the very bright light from the ATM kiosk in the driver's eyes. Bad engineering is to blame and I hope engineers consider the impact their work can have on lives.