Some people thought it was a joke.
When Dongkwon Shin posted a Facebook status to let friends know that Tam Hoang had died in the car accident they were both in earlier that day, Shin said some believed his Facebook had been hacked.
The tragic news was true. And the events leading up to the accident were nothing out of the ordinary.
Management information sciences junior Hoang and computer science junior Shin were returning to campus from Walmart, driving eastbound on Frankford Road at about 1:50 a.m. on Nov. 7, when Hoang took his eyes off the road to look at his phone, Shin said.
When he warned Hoang that the left lane they were in was going to end, Hoang jerked the car to the right, and hit the median before the car spun and hit a utility pole.
Unable to open the car door, Shin had to climb out of the passenger seat window. A man and woman, whom Shin said he believes are UTD students, called 911 and attempted to help Hoang. The car door had caved in on Hoang, Shin said.
“I didn’t get the chance to know them or thank them,” Shin said of the good Samaritans. “The girl gave me her jacket because it was cold, and the guy took me to the side so they could take care of the situation and call the police and ambulance.”
Hoang was pronounced dead at the scene, according to the Dallas PD.
“We’re all still a bit shocked,” said Mohammad Yarsin, a close friend of Hoang and Shin’s and an Arts & Technology sophomore. “I was taking an exam and after I got out I saw a missed call from Dongkwon, so I called him back and he told me about it. I was at the fountain in front of the SU, just standing there in shock for about five minutes.”
Psychology senior Beruk Taye met Hoang through his roommate at the beginning of the semester and found out about Hoang’s death through Facebook. Taye’s last encounter with Hoang left little closure.
“We were with my roommate and (Hoang) just got up and said ‘I’ll be right back,’” Taye said. “I sleep, and then I see this thing on Facebook. It still doesn’t seem real.”
Taye, Yarsin and Shin all described Hoang in similar terms: friendly, open with his emotions and very energetic.
Hoang would often ask the others to go to the gym with him, sometimes even at midnight. His open nature was apparent even in high school, when he first met Yarsin in science class.
“There was an empty seat next to him, and I took the seat. He turned around and told me his name, and we started talking,” Yarsin said. “He was my first friend in high school.”
Like many students, Hoang focused much of his energy on his schoolwork and would panic about a low test grade. His motivation, though, always stemmed from his goal of eventually supporting his parents, who had moved the family from the Philippines, where Hoang was raised for part of his life, to the U.S. for their son to go to school, Shin said.
“(Hoang) knew how important it was to do well in school,” he said. “He was the only child … and he didn’t want to let (his parents) down. He meant everything to them and they lost him because of a cell phone.”