Updated (Saturday, 2 p.m.) with comments from U.S. Naval Academy officials.
A 21-year-old junior in the U.S. Naval Academy was killed Friday morning in a crash on Interstate 78 near Greenwich Township in Berks County.
Austin Zalik, 21, who graduated from Parkland High School and had resided in Upper Macungie, was killed when his pickup truck rolled off an embankment and into the path of a tractor-trailer exiting Interstate 78 in Bucks County about 7 a.m. Friday.
“The Naval Academy is deeply saddened by this sudden and tragic loss,” Naval Academy Superintendent Vice Adm. Michael Miller said. “Our most heartfelt sympathies and condolences go out to Austin’s family and friends during this very difficult time.”
According to a report in the Morning Call, Austin Zalik had been sleeping in his pickup truck in the parking lot of a Berks County gas station shortly before the accident. Authorities said Zalik's pickup may have drifted onto the ramp as he dozed. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
Zalik, a junior, was enjoying his summer leave from the U.S. Naval Academy. He was member of the 9th Company and an ocean engineering major. Zalik had been selected as captain of the gymnastics team for the upcoming season.
The academy immediately dispatched a support group to Pennsylvania consisting of a senior officer, a senior chaplain and a member of the gymnastics staff. Cmdr. William Marks said that a casualty assistance officer was also assigned to the Zalik family to help with details like funeral arrangements and travel needs.
“Our deepest sympathy goes out to Austin’s family, classmates and friends during this tragic time,” Cmdr. William Marks said. “We will remember Austin and celebrate his life at a ceremony later this month as the Brigade of Midshipmen & Naval Academy family return home to Annapolis for the 2012 academic year."
Zalik had previously competed at the Parkettes National Gymnastics Training Center In Allentown.
The following tributes were among those left by friends on his Facebook page:
* “Wow, you know nobody lived life like Austin Zalik. He never left a good opportunity pass. Glad I got to be your roommate for a few years at the Academy and see ya one last time over this summer in Cali. Shock is an understatement. RIP bud.”
* RIP to one of the realest, and down-to-earth kids. … What a great, genuinely nice kid. Weird, weird feeling, because I was thinking about ya this morning and last night while watching the gymnastic competitions...RIP brother.”