Police: Alcohol a factor in death of Northwestern student from LI

Harsha Maddula, a sophomore pre-med student, who was Harsha Maddula, a sophomore pre-med student, who was last seen leaving an off-campus party about 12:30 a.m. Sept. 22, drowned, according to an autopsy by the Cook County medical examiner. His body was found in Wilmette Harbor north of Chicago. He was 18. Photo Credit: Handout

advertisement | advertise on newsday

Alcohol is listed as a contributing factor in the September drowning death of a Northwestern University student from New Hyde Park that appears to have been accidental, Illinois police said Wednesday.

Evanston, Ill., police said in a statement Wednesday that toxicology results showed Harsha Maddula's blood-alcohol level was 0.125. The legal limit is 0.08.

Police said the Cook County medical examiner's office classified the cause of Maddula's death as undetermined and that police believe it was accidental, with alcohol as a contributing factor, "based on the whole investigation, which includes the scene examination, cellphone records, witness interviews and toxicology results."

Maddula, 18, who aspired to be a doctor, was last seen Sept. 22 leaving a party where police said he was seen drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana.

Maddula's parents, Prasad Maddula and Dhanalakshmi Maddula, deferred questions to their attorney, who could not be reached Wednesday night.

Police said Maddula's phone records and a witness statement indicate he had a cellphone conversation that night about 12:35 a.m., and police said Maddula indicated he was in his dormitory. Police said he was not -- cellphone tracking records show Maddula walked from where he was at the party to Wilmette Harbor, not far from the Northwestern campus.

Maddula's body was found in the harbor five days later, on Sept. 27.The next day, authorities said Maddula died from drowning.

In their report on Maddula's cause of death, police said he suffered a bruise on his head, which was "consistent with falling into the harbor and possibly rubbing against a wall, pier support or boat."

Police investigators examined Maddula's laptop computer and personal belongings and said there was no indication he wanted to harm himself.

"We are saddened by the fact that alcohol may have been a factor in Harsha's death," said Patricia Telles-Irvin, Northwestern's vice president for student affairs. "The university continuously assesses how to address this problem, which is not unique to Northwestern, and as part of that effort, funds academic research into substance abuse and related problems on college and university campuses.

"Again, we extend our sincere condolences to Harsha's family and to his friends here at Northwestern," Telles-Irvin said.

You also may be interested in: