Northwestern student drowns in canal during rowing team practice

Northwestern University has identified the missing student member who fell out of his boat Monday morning during crew practice as 19-year-old Mohammed Ramzan, a freshman from Auburn, Washington. (Fox 32 Chicago)

His body was recovered from the canal late Monday night.

The search began around 7:40 AM, shortly after Ramzan fell overboard. The coach, trailing in a motorized boat, was one of two people who jumped in to try and save Ramzan, but they could not find him in the murky waters.

“It’s a recovery operation at this point,” said Skokie Fire Chief Jim Walters. “We pulled the divers about 9:30, 10:00 o’clock, went into recovery mode at that time and put the boats in the water with sonar and that gives us the best possibility of making a find.”

Numerous dive and rescue teams from several fire departments spent the rest of the daylight hours searching up and down the canal. But because the crew team members were unable to pinpoint their location when Ramzan fell in, it made the initial search challenging and the water conditions complicated the recovery operation.

“I mean it’s murky, it’s murky all the way through, I was told the visibility is about three feet, we encountering the brush on the side of the canal that makes it difficult,” Walters said.

Crew has been a club sport at Northwestern since the 80’s. Crew members don’t wear any life jackets, because it impedes their rowing.

The university did not know whether Ramzan was experienced at crew, or a good swimmer. But what happened is hitting home.

“You know I’m a parent, I have two sons who are grown, these are the things that you never want to have occur. It’s really tough,” said Alan Cubbage, Vice President of University Relations for Northwestern.

He said counselors are being made available for Ramzan’s team members and other students who need help processing the tragedy.

An autopsy Tuesday found he drowned, and his death was ruled an accident, according to the medical examiner’s office.