Richard Holland

Mass to be held in memory of accidental UT student death

Corrected at 4:54 p.m.: Because of a reporting error, an earlier version of this post misreported the time and location of the memorial service.

Corrected at 8:04 p.m.: Because of a reporting error, an earlier version of this post said Ali Mavrakis was with Holland at the time of the accident.

[Updated at 4:07 p.m.: added name of the deceased]

Friends of a UT student pronounced dead early Tuesday morning have organized a memorial mass in his honor at 5:00 p.m. today at the University Catholic Center.

Business sophomore Richard Holland, who friends say accidently fell from his fifth floor balcony at the Block apartments on 2222 Pearl St. An official police report has not been issued, but friends report he was taken to University Medical Center Brackenridge where he was later pronounced dead.

Finance junior Ali Mavrakis said he and Holland were close friends for 13 years. Mavrakis said he and other friends were with him at the hospital. Family and friends were with him at the hospital until he was pronounced dead, Mavrakis said.

“He always had a smile on his face and was able to make sure everyone around him did too,” said biology sophomore Jasmine Mann. “He was one of those people that would get so excited when he saw you like he hadn’t seen you in years. Unfortunately I didn’t get to hang out with him as much as I would have liked to in the past year, which I really regret.”

The UT business student who fell from his apartment balcony Monday night is one of at least four students who have died from fall-related injuries since 2006.

Richard Holland of Plano was pronounced dead at the University Medical Center Brackenridge after falling from his fifth-floor balcony at The Block apartments on Pearl Street, according to the Austin Police Department. Unlike the deaths of former students Tyler Cross in 2006, Daniel Toole in 2007 and Maximiliano Rodriguez in 2010, Holland’s friends said they do not believe alcohol or drugs were related to the accident. APD could not comment on whether or not there was alcohol at the scene.

According to previous Daily Texan news coverage, toxicology reports found Cross had a blood alcohol level of .19 when he fell from his fifth-floor balcony at University Towers. Rodriguez had a blood alcohol level of more than three times the legal limit when he fell from the fifth-floor of the Jefferson 26 apartments.

Medical examiners found traces of LSD and marijuana in the body of Toole, who also fell from the fifth-floor balcony of his Goodall-Wooten dormitory.

Sarah Scott, chief administrative officer for the Travis County Medical Examiner’s Office, said an autopsy was conducted on Holland’s body Tuesday and examiners are currently processing the results. Scott said toxicology reports on the body will not be available for four to six weeks.

“Sometimes, when there is an obvious case of an injury, such as blunt force trauma, we’ll go ahead and assign a cause of death because the cause will be the same regardless of the toxicology report,” Scott said. “A toxicology report will tell us what kind of substances were in the individual’s blood stream and an alcohol presence will be confirmed or eliminated from the report.”

APD public information specialist Helena Wright said police are almost certain Holland’s fall was accidental but are currently looking into the case.

“If a death is ruled accidental, there will be no further investigation,” Wright said.

“But something like this isn’t open and shut that quickly, and they may still be gathering information.”

City residential inspector Byron Kurka said patio guardrails are required to stand 42 inches above the floor surface, and pickets along the railing cannot be more than four inches apart.

“Your average person’s center of gravity is below 42 inches,” Kurka said. “The rail hits you at above your center of gravity, but unfortunately, a lot of times people sit on the edge or on a barstool next to it. When you’re sitting on a barstool right next to it your center of gravity is going to be over that limit.”

The Block management did not return phone calls inquiring whether building codes are up to standards.

Funeral services for the UT sophomore friends described as loyal and energetic are scheduled for this weekend in the Dallas area. Visitation for Holland will be held Friday from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Ted Dickey West Funeral Home in Dallas, and the funeral will begin at 10 a.m. Saturday at the Custer Road United Methodist Church in Plano.

Finance junior Ali Mavrakis, close friend of Holland, created a Facebook event to inform people about the arrangements. Mavrakis and other friends of the former student gathered Tuesday night at the University Catholic Center to remember Holland and share sentiments. An additional Facebook event has been created, inviting approximately 2,000 students from UT and other schools to wear yellow, Holland’s favorite color, on Sept. 6 in his honor.

Printed on September 1, 2011 as: West Campus has history of fall-related accidents

University Catholic Center director Edward Nowak read prayers and scriptures in an otherwise silent chapel where loved ones of business sophomore Richard Holland gathered to remember him.

Holland, 19, accidentally fell from the fifth floor balcony of his apartment at the Block on Pearl Street Monday night, according to the Austin Police Department. He was transported to University Medical Center Brackenridge and later pronounced dead. APD could not comment on if there was alcohol involved.

Approximately 40 of Holland’s friends attended the prayer service honoring him at the UCC Tuesday. Holland was a graduate of Plano West Senior High School. More than 100 friends and acquittances left notes on his Facebook page, many of them expressing what a happy, upbeat person Holland was.

Nowak blessed the people who attended the service, many of whom shared hugs and tears among the candlelight.

“All of the campus ministries, whatever people’s background, have ministers always available for counseling,” Nowak said after the service. “It’s good that we could provide a place where people could gather together and comfort one another.”

Sam Tillery, a sophomore at the Colorado School of Mines, said he caught the first flight from Denver to Austin when he learned of his friend’s death.

“I’ve known Richard since kindergarten,” Tillery said. “We played on every sports team together growing up and lived along the same block. I don’t think there was a day we didn’t see each other [until college].”

Tillery said he and Holland were members of a close-knit group that included finance junior Ali Mavrakis, who also attended the service. Tillery said while his real family is overseas and communication with them is difficult, he takes comfort in his friendship with Mavrakis and others who were close to Holland.

“Towards the end of the service people started to remember fond memories,” Mavrakis said. “People that were sobbing, they were laughing. It’s helped to be able to come together, and he’s going to be remembered well.”

Printed on Wednesday, August 31, 2011 as: Friends honor UT sophomore at memorial.