A University of Minnesota student who survived an icy plunge into the Chicago River says he “never felt so helpless” as when he was in the water and holding his dying cousin while watching a friend float away to her death.
Ken Hoang, 26, of St. Paul, died from drowning and was intoxicated when he fell into the water early Monday while trying to retrieve his cellphone, the Cook County medical examiner’s office ruled Tuesday.
Another U student, Lauren Li, 21, of Burnsville, drifted away in the downtown Chicago River. Her body was found Wednesday in the river, the Chicago Tribune reported, citing a police marine unit official.
Quoc Viet Phan Hoang, 23, of Vadnais Heights, was released from Presence St. Joseph Hospital on Wednesday, a hospital official said.
The three were heading to New Jersey from the Twin Cities and stopped for a brief side trip to Chicago. Ken Hoang dropped his cellphone onto the icy river while taking photos about 12:05 a.m. Monday, scaled a fence and went through the ice as he tried to retrieve it. That’s when his cousin and Li went in after him.
“I lost two good friends,” Quoc Hoang, a liberal arts student at the U, said in his statement. “It’s not easy seeing your friends drift away and having one die in your arms. I have never felt so helpless in my life. Thank you for everyone’s thoughts and prayers.”
Li, who graduated from Burnsville High School, was a senior in the College of Biological Sciences and an honors student. Ken Hoang, a graduate of St. Paul Como High School, attended the U until 2010.
Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482