School mourns over drowned student

NW Staff

By Lucy Hough and Scott Viau

Eighteen year-old freshman DeVante Billups died Friday, Aug. 27 off the shore of Lake Superior near Picnic Rocks. Billups’ death is the latest in a series of drownings this summer.

Billups had been swimming with fellow students Jacqueline Diekman  and Jordan Rasch  when he began struggling in the water. Diekman and Rasch attempted to help Billups but had to abandon efforts when their own lives were in danger.

Emergency personnel was contacted around 6:40 p.m. and Billups was recovered several minutes later and then transferred to Marquette General Hospital. He was pronounced dead at 8 p.m.

A memorial event for Billups was held by Meyland Hall on Sunday near Picnic Rocks. He had been an active member of his house and volunteered for several activities.

“The memorial that they put on is going to be a very helpful thing. I think the challenge is going to be to get back into the routine that helps people move forward,” said Director of Housing and Residence Life Carl Holm.

For students affected by this death, Holm said the counseling center is contacted to help anyone who may be having a difficult time coping with this sudden loss.

“They’re standing by in case we need to get in touch with them,” Holm said.

Holm added that students always need to  be smart and careful when swimming in the lake.

“I think that we live in a really beautiful area, and just like any area there are risks that people take when they go about doing things,” Holm said.

According to Holm, changing current practices to prevent an incident like this from happening again is not an issue that is specific to Housing, but something that the university will consider as a whole.

Associate Provost of Student Services Bill Bernard said that students are informed of the dangers of Lake Superior during orientation and throughout their time at Northern in various ways.

“We’ll continue to do that, and we’ll evaluate to see if there’s another way we could have possibly communicated to students and the campus community on this particular type of tragedy,” Bernard said.

Jacqueline Diekman serves as a Resident Advisor on the first floor of Meyland Hall, but was not an RA for Billups, who lived on the second floor.

“The young woman was not acting in a capacity of a Resident Advisor,” Bernard said. “She was a student swimming at the beach, as were many other students that day.”