UM student found dead at Rolling Green

By Collegian News Staff

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Tuesday morning the Amherst Police Department responded to Rolling Green Apartments on Route 9 at approximately 9:04 a.m. and found the body of 21-year-old University of Massachusetts student Jason Miner in a four-door black Ford Fusion sedan parked in the complex’s lot.

Residents of the complex smelled a strange odor coming from the vehicle before summoning authorities. Officers that arrived on the scene investigated the contents of the automobile, and became “aware that potentially hazardous materials were present in the car.”

Officials found hydrogen sulfide at the scene – an extremely toxic chemical that can be created with household products and is commonly used for suicide.

After transferring to UMass this semester, Miner was on pace to graduate in 2013 with degrees in psychology and physics, according to UMass spokesman Edward F. Blaguszewski.

Emergency personnel proceeded to evacuate portions of Rolling Green after the discovery. The Department of Fire Service Hazardous Material Response and the Amherst Police and Fire Departments were on the scene until around 2:30 p.m. After the initial evacuation, residents or visitors to Rolling Green, located at 422 Belchertown Rd., were allowed to use the entrances or exits of the complex while officials were on the scene. However, some cars and parking lots were quarantined while investigators worked, frustrating some residents.

Samuel Sweeney, a junior communications major at UMass and resident of Rolling Green, was at home at the time of the incident, in an apartment located just a few doors down from where the body was discovered.

“I got a call from one of my friends saying that he heard people in Rolling Green were being evacuated,” said Sweeney during an interview with the Massachusetts Daily Collegian. “I didn’t even know, because I was inside working on a paper. Then I looked outside my window, and it was chaos.”

According to Sweeney, from his vantage point he could see a multitude of “fire trucks, ambulances, police, and a lot of other emergency vehicles.”

“We were allowed to leave by bus – but if your car was parked in certain lots, like mine was, you couldn’t get to it,” said Sweeney of the quarantined areas. “I wasn’t able to leave for hours.”

Investigators do not believe that this death is suspicious of foul play, according to an initial Amherst Police press release.

Hydrogen sulfide is made by combining toilet bowl cleaning products and a common insecticide to create a lethal gas that tends to sit at the bottom of poorly-ventilated areas. It first became common in Japan, where, in 2008, over 500 individuals used it to commit suicide. The gas also carries a significant risk to bystanders, as occurred in April 2008 when the hydrogen sulfide suicide of a 14-year-old Japanese girl sickened another 90 people living in her apartment building, according to FOX News.

According to the APD release, a joint investigation is continuing between the Northwestern District Attorney’s office and the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.

– Collegian News Staff