FORT MYERS, Fla. — After more than 15 hours of searching on Wednesday night into Thursday, investigators say they found the body of a missing Florida Gulf Coast University student from Lake Como at about 11:20 a.m. on Thursday.
The student has been identified as 19-year-old Graham McGrath, a sophomore at FGCU, just one week away from his birthday. The university says he was a member of the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity.
Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno says the wake boat McGrath was on had 13 people on it. The private boat was on Lake Como, a lake shared with FGCU and the Miromar Lakes development.
"They were swimming, they were recreating," Marceno said. "I know they were boating throughout the day."
For reasons still unclear, McGrath went in the water and he was reported missing around 7:00 p.m. Wednesday. Someone called 911, and first responders rushed over with divers and the LCSO helicopter.
Marceno says they were met with tough conditions.
"There’s rocks, the depths change very, very quickly. It can go 10 feet to 30 or 40 feet very quickly," he said. "It’s near impossible to see anything other than when we utilize our technology, which is a side scan sonar system."
That scanner can look in those murky areas for anything of importance.
"When we capture shadows, then we dive with our teams here where we go down and blindly reach around until we can identify the object in question," Marceno said.
Marceno says they were able to narrow down to a small section on the west end of the lake. On Thursday morning around 11:20, they found McGrath near the Grove Pointe dorms about 100 yards from the shore.
It's not clear yet how he died, which is what the medical examiner will determine.
"We don’t know if someone had a medical event, we don’t know exactly what we’re faced with," Marceno said.
Marceno says everyone who was on the boat is cooperating with detectives. They are not sure if foul play was involved, but Marceno said until they prove otherwise factually, they treat everything as if it is.
FGCU has released a statement following the discovery of McGrath.
It is with deep sadness that I inform you of the passing of Graham McGrath, the FGCU student who tragically went missing yesterday afternoon while on a private boat on the shared lake between the university and Miromar Lakes. The entire FGCU community is devastated by the loss of Graham. Our hearts and deepest sympathy go out to Graham’s family, the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity, his friends and all members of our Eagle community as we cope with this unfortunate tragedy.
Throughout the search efforts, I have been in constant contact with Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno, and I applaud his leadership and the collaboration and courageous work of the first responders from multiple agencies who worked around the clock in the search for Graham. Our thanks to the Lee County Sheriff Office (LCSO), the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), the Iona-McGregor Fire District, San Carlos Park Fire District and our own University Police Department. The LCSO is now conducting a death investigation and the boating investigation is being handled by the FWC.
During this time of great heartbreak and grief, FGCU wants to help our students, faculty and staff the best that we can. We encourage everyone to seek the assistance they need.
The following resources are available:
· Any student can walk into our Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) office, and no appointments are necessary. The CAPS team can be reached at (239) 590-7950 and by email at email@example.com. In this difficult time, please also feel free to call the CAPS help line at (239) 745-EARS (3277) outside of normal business hours (evenings, weekends and holidays).
· Student CARE Services is available to assist with resources and referrals. Contact the team by text at (239) 350-4536, phone call at (239) 590-7728 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also call the Dean of Students Office at (239) 590-7900. To learn more about our Care Services, you can also visit the Eagles Care website [nam04.safelinks.protection.outlook.com].
I am continuing to send my care and condolences to Graham’s family and the entire FGCU community.
- Employee Assistance Program (EAP) services, including mental health counseling, are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, at (833) 746-8337 or online at http://www.mylifeexpert.com[nam04.safelinks.protection.outlook.com]. Use company code: Florida.