This accident presents a fairly odd set of facts to explain the likely cause of death of Jonathan Lacina at ISU during the winter months, but it gives me an opportunity to discuss safety for college students. Mr. Lacina was a graphic design student at ISU from Grinnell, Iowa who disappeared and then was found months later in an abandoned building at the former ISU dairy farm. He was 21 and a senior. He disappeared on January 22, 2010 and wasn't discovered until April 14, 2010. The Iowa DCI did its investigation and now concludes the death was by accident; not foul play. What the DCI appears to have concluded was he fell down steps that were partially snow covered, then struck his head and knocked himself unconscious; after which he suffered hypothermia. In addition they point out cuts on his hands from broken door glass. We don't know the extent nor if a loss of blood contributed to his death. Although I'm an Iowa grad, I am familiar with ISU as my son and two stepdaughters recently graduated from Iowa State University. One of them, Shannon graduated from the School of Art & Design. So what went wrong and as parents what advice should we give our children as they explore the world through the curious eyes of college students while carving out their niche in life.
First of all the reported news lacks the detail lawyers like to see when understanding exactly what occurred. I wish the state investigators had published a photograph of the stairway and door. It would help to at least see what we are talking about. But they didn't so let's go on and I'll just have to wonder if this is the end of the investigation. Probably it is, but the conclusions aren't conclusive as to the cause of death appears to be listed only as probably what happened.
"The medical examiner's office ruled out foul play last month, and said it consulted with several forensic experts to confirm a cause of death. The office said Lacina's death resulted from "probable hypothermia with sharp force injuries," but offered no further details."
You have to wonder if there was a loss of blood from the cuts, unconsciousness and hypothermia that weakened the young man making him unable to rescue himself.
Like this young man I'm a wanderer; I have a passion for photography and can find adventure in doing what he did. From mountaineering I certainly understand hypothermia and it's affects on the human body and being in the mountains always presents a risk of injury. So let's develop a plan of action that will work for curious and busy college students that have limited means of transportation while providing a better chance of surviving the unexpected.
How can students or prospective students learn from this young man's unfortunate mishap and be better prepared in case something happens and you find yourself stranded.
Being a graphic design student perhaps led him to look in remote and abandoned buildings for imagery that would help his education and professional competence. If this is something you think about doing it's probably better to use the buddy system and take someone along with you. Also you need to have certain things with you and a small-compact backpack is the first piece of equipment you'll need. Having Nalgene bottles with water is a good idea. Inside that backpack throw in a flashlight or Petzel head lamp, a knife that has pliers, a cell phone or other communication device, some beef jerky and a medical kit. If it's winter a thermal cover may also prove useful as a shield from the inclement weather. All of this can in an emergency increase your chances of being rescued and may ultimately save your life.
Curiosity is a good thing but being prepared for the worse is a must. You need to have a plan for survival especially in Iowa's harsh, long cold winters. Think, think and then think some more.