Penn student killed in crash was on verge of big things

Pcrash08. Facebook photo of Zach Woods. Permission to use given by his parents.
Pcrash08. Facebook photo of Zach Woods. Permission to use given by his parents.
Posted: May 09, 2014

Zachary Woods was enjoying a pivotal time in his life.

After spending five years working in China, the 27-year-old had just begun classes at the Wharton School on Monday. He was planning to propose to his girlfriend next month.

But while walking to classes Tuesday, the native of New York state was struck by a car in a freak accident that flung him off an elevated section of Walnut Street. He died that night at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.

A distraught family member who asked not to be identified recounted his life and his dreams, and struggled to understand how he could suddenly be dead.

Woods was "a great kid" who was a competitive swimmer in college and had traveled the world, worked as a manager in a Chinese wastewater treatment plant, and helped raise Chinese investment dollars for projects in New York.

"He just picked out his engagement ring last week," his family said.

Police said Woods was walking on Walnut around 10 a.m. Tuesday when one car struck another near the intersection with 30th Street. A westbound Toyota Camry was crossing 30th when it hit a Mercury Montego broadside. The Montego had been speeding when it entered the intersection, police said. It ran over the curb, hit a light pole, Woods, and a retaining wall before it stopped, police said.

Woods was thrown over the edge of the street and fell to a roadway 38 feet below.

The driver of the Montego was listed in critical condition at the Penn hospital, with body trauma injuries. Woods' family members said they were told by police the driver may have had a medical emergency that led to the crash.

Woods grew up in Monroe, N.Y., and graduated from Middlebury College in 2009. He studied Mandarin as a minor, and that led to work in China for the New York City Regional Center and the Western Water Group.

As an international fund-raiser, he brought in more than $1 billion for public-private real estate development projects in New York, according to his LinkedIn profile.

On Facebook, he posted numerous photos of his adventures in Asia, including riding a camel and base-jumping. His most recent profile picture showed him and his girlfriend, Elyse Stone, who was expected to return to the United States on Thursday from Shanghai, where she works and met Woods a year and a half ago.

Woods' 21-year sister, Callie, who is studying in New Zealand, also was returning home. He has a brother, Matthew, 24, who lives in Harrisburg. His parents live in Monroe. His mother, Lori Currier-Woods, is a Family Court judge in Orange County, N.Y.

Woods moved to Philadelphia on May 1. He was a student in the Lauder Program, which combines a Wharton MBA with a master's degree in international studies.

As part of his studies, Woods would have returned to China for two months. That's when he was going to propose.


awhelan@philly.com

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