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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Tuesday, September 26, 2023
Lake Mendota drowning

The Madison Fire Department Lake Rescue Team search boat docked around 5:15 p.m. Wednesday, and the Dane County Sheriff’s Office arrived to continue the search.

UW-Madison student dies in apparent drowning

The Dane County Medical Examiner’s Office announced Thursday the 20-year-old man who went missing while swimming Wednesday in Lake Mendota was University of Wisconsin-Madison student Richard “Grady” de La Cruz.

A Wauwatosa native and recent Marquette University transfer student, De la Cruz was swimming with two other friends near the Porter Boathouse on the lakeshore side of campus at approximately 3:15 p.m. when he went under the surface, according to a UW-Madison news release.

Madison Fire and Rescue led the initial rescue mission but after several unsuccessful hours, the Dane County Sheriff’s Office diving team began what was then redefined as a “body recovery” effort, Madison Fire Department Public Relations Officer Eric Dahl said. Divers found the body at approximately 6:40 p.m.

The UW-Madison Police Department is awaiting toxicology results from the Medical Examiner’s office to determine whether or not alcohol was involved. But UWPD spokesperson Marc Lovicott said he does not believe alcohol played a part in the accident at this time “based on witnesses and the individuals de la Cruz was swimming with.”

It could take up to one month before results return, according to Lovicott.

The accident occurred almost a year after 19-year-old UW-Madison student John “Vietnam” Nguyen passed away in a similar manner, in the same general area, on Aug. 30, 2012.

Lovicott said water-related fatalities are “unfortunately... not unusual” and urged students and others looking to enjoy the lake to do so responsibly by remaining in areas where lifeguards are on duty, and where swimming is permitted.

According to Lovicott, de la Cruz was swimming in an area posted “No Swimming.”

“We’ve got a really safe place with resources there for folks in case they do get into trouble, and that’s over at the [Memorial] Union,” he said.

Dean of Students Lori Berquam called the tragedy an “unimaginable loss” and said in a statement, “we offer our thoughts to his friends and family during this difficult time.”

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