A University of Minnesota freshman from Orono was found dead Sunday morning along the Mississippi River just east of the Stone Arch Bridge, not far from campus. Police suspect that he may have frozen to death.
Authorities identified him as Jacob W. Anderson, 19, who was enrolled in the College of Liberal Arts and lived in Pioneer Hall. He was a popular student at Orono High School, where he played varsity lacrosse, and was remembered by a neighbor, Roxane Gehle, as a “kid that you loved to have around.”
Anderson’s body was found about 8:45 a.m. on the ground near Main Street and 6th Avenue SE. Police said no foul play was involved.
At the university, Raymond Duvall, interim dean of the College of Liberal Arts, said in a statement: “We share this grief as a community. Out of this moment of sadness, let’s all make a special effort to watch out for and take care of each other.”
The death came a week after a student at the University of Minnesota Duluth almost died of hypothermia when she spent a frigid night on a neighbor’s porch after friends dropped her off after being out drinking.
In Minneapolis early Sunday, temperatures had dropped to 1 degree below zero. Police said the cause of death will be determined by the Hennepin County medical examiner.
In Orono, and in the tight-knit community of lacrosse players and coaches, his death came as heart-wrenching news.
He had been the goalie of an Orono High lacrosse team that captured the Section 8 championship in 2013, one of the team’s five captains, a leader more by action than words. But when Anderson spoke, coach Josh Scott recalled Sunday, “the whole team was listening … it was meaningful. If the guys weren’t hustling, or weren’t listening to us, he’d get them focused on the task of what we were doing.”
Of his death, Scott said: “It’s a shock to everybody. You don’t get ‘why?’ So you reach out. Everybody’s dumbfounded.”
On Baldur Park Road in Orono, where Anderson grew up, he was known to neighbors as a “kind, sensitive kid,” always smiling and willing to help out when people were putting in their docks, said Gehle, who lived three doors down from the Anderson family.
She spoke with his parents recently, she said, and they reported that “he was really enjoying the start of his freshman year. He had made some great friends.”
Gehle did not know what Anderson intended to do after he attended the university. But she was well aware of what his loss meant to the people who knew him.
“He is going to be greatly missed,” she said. “It’s a heartbreak for the neighborhood and for all his friends and family.”
Anderson’s parents could not be reached Sunday night.
His uncle, Kraig Brose, of Eden Prairie, said he was “just a wonderful nephew. We love him with all our hearts. He will be dearly missed … It’s just a real tragic time, a horrible accident.”
A doctor at Hennepin County Medical Center said people outside in freezing temperatures must dress in layers, wear hats and cover noses, ears and other exposed skin to avoid frostbite and hypothermia. Dr. Brian Mahoney, of the emergency medicine department, said the body loses heat by exposure to cold air or by touching cold objects or ground.
“The biggest way you get in trouble with cold is through convection when you are exposed to cold moving air, or cold moving water. That’s when you lose heat the fastest. … You need to have dry, adequate clothing and be out of wind.”
Alcohol can add to the risk. It draws heat from the body core to the skin, and “if alcohol is involved, it will impair your judgment,” Mahoney said.
Danita Brown Young, vice provost for student affairs and dean of students, said officials are working to provide counseling, mental health and other support to Jacob’s friends and fellow students at the university.
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