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Former Coach Killed After Being Struck by Car in Westfield

(Photo Courtesy: Westfield State University)

WESTFIELD, Mass. (WGGB) — An 86 year-old bicyclist and former high school and college coach has died from injuries sustained after being struck by a Chevrolet pickup on Western Avenue Tuesday.

According to the Westfield Police Department, they received the call just before 2:00 Tuesday afternoon.

Lt. Jerome Pitoniak tells ABC40 News the Chevy pickup was traveling eastbound when it collided with the elderly man who was on a bicycle at the time.

The area where the accident occurred is right near the Woodward Center at Westfield State University and had to be shut down to traffic for a couple of hours while police investigated.

In a campus-wide email, Westfield State University President Evan Dobelle identified the victim as John Kurty.

Police say Kurty was transported to Baystate Medical Center with serious injuries. He was later pronounced dead.

A “highly respected coach and mentor whose impact and influence on the students he taught will be long remembered,” Dobelle says Kurty achieved a record of 153-36-13 as men’s soccer coach from 1966 to 1977.

Kurty also coached golf for ten years and volleyball for seven at Westfield State, and was an assistant for their baseball team.

Kurty retired from the university in 1988 and in 1994, became a member of the charter class to the Westfield State Athletics Hall of Fame.

Westfield State Athletic Director Richard Lenfest says in a statement, “The Westfield State athletics department is deeply saddened by the death of Coach Kurty. He was a legendary coach but he was an even better person who was very loyal to Westfield State, even in his retirement years. A scholarship fund at WSU is being established in his name.”

One of Kurty’s former players, Paul Whalley remembers him not only as the perfect coach, but also a wonderful and inspiring person.

“Coach Kurty was a great coach, and an even greater guy. He taught us to win and lose and lose with class,” says Whalley who adds, “In talking to people about him all over Western Massachusetts, everybody I talked to had the same reaction, ‘great guy.’ I never had anybody say a bad thing about him. Probably because in 41 years I never heard him say a bad thing about anybody else.”

Before coming to Westfield State, Kurty coached high school soccer in Ludlow for ten years, leading the team to three consecutive state championships.

The operator of the motor vehicle was not injured and police say no charges have been filed at this time.

The crash is being investigated by the Westfield Police Department Traffic Bureau with assistance from the Massachusetts State Police.

Dobelle says that the school’s thoughts and condolences are with his wife, son, daughter, and son-in-law, and funeral and memorial arrangements have not been released.

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