NMU student honored after death

Amanda Monthei

When 19-year-old NMU student Brittany Nicholas passed away on Thursday, Nov. 28 from injuries sustained in a car accident two days prior, her friend Bryana Riutta immediately began creating a tribute video, one that would both help her cope and show others the personality of Nicholas and the significance of her life.

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Brittany Nicholas

The video appeared on Riutta’s photography blog on Sunday, Dec. 1, and has been received well by Nicholas’ friends and family, as well as by strangers that stumbled upon it.

“We went to high school together, we were involved in cheerleading from seventh to 12th grade and we were in golf, National Honor Society, just all these things,” said Riutta, who attended NMU as a photography major during the 2012-2013 school year but has since left to pursue her own business. “I had all these pictures, and this was just my way of coping — I decided to make a tribute for her.”

Nicholas, who was from South Range, Mich., was returning home for Thanksgiving break in icy conditions when she lost control of her vehicle and veered into the other lane on Wednesday, Nov. 27.

According to reports by the Daily Mining Gazette in Houghton, Nicholas’ car hit a southbound vehicle, which was driven by 64-year-old Diane Risku of Watton, Mich. Both drivers were taken to the Baraga County Memorial Hospital, while Nicholas was later transported to Marquette General Hospital. She was pronounced dead on Thursday, Nov. 28 from the injuries she sustained during the accident, according to reports from the Mining Gazette.

An official press release about the accident was not available to the North Wind as of press time.

Nicholas was a talented singer who was only just getting recognition for her skill, according to Riutta, who accompanied Nicholas in singing the National Anthem at basketball games in high school as well as at church events and talent shows.

“Brittany has always wanted to sing professionally, but she never tried to do anything with it,” Riutta said. “So her boyfriend Damion Johnson and I tried to convince her to start singing, and I began recording some of her songs. Singing was just really important to her.”

Riutta’s video highlighted Nicholas’ singing as a backdrop to significant moments in her 19 years, with hundreds of images displaying senior dances, high school graduation, road trips and talent shows.

The video concluded with a two-minute clip of Nicholas sitting in front of a camera singing Carrie Underwood’s song ‘Don’t Forget to Remember Me.’

The 12-minute tribute video ended with Nicholas holding a guitar in her lap, strumming and flashing an occasional smile, one Riutta referred to as “infectious” into the camera between chords.