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Ohio State identifies deceased student, aims to end Mirror Lake tradition after tragedy

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After a medical emergency during the Mirror Lake jump, security officers blocked off access to Mirror Lake with bikes and metal barricades on Nov. 25. Credit: Robert Scarpinito | Copy Chief

After a medical emergency during the Mirror Lake jump, security officers blocked off access to Mirror Lake with bikes and metal barricades on Nov. 25. Credit: Robert Scarpinito | Copy Chief

As temperatures Tuesday evening hovered just above freezing, a mass of Ohio State students began plunging into the waters of Mirror Lake during the 2015 jump.

At about 12:20 a.m. on Wednesday, at the peak of attendance, a stream of emergency responders, including Columbus Fire Department, rushed with a stretcher toward an ambulance parked on Neil Avenue.

Soon thereafter, law enforcement providing security for Mirror Lake began clearing OSU students out of the area that had been fenced off for the jump. The Lantern confirmed with a security officer on scene that this was a direct result of the medical emergency.

Vernon Baisden, director of public safety, said in email sent at about 1:20 a.m. that the unidentified male removed from Mirror Lake had received on-site medical attention from emergency responders before being taken to Wexner Medical Center for further care.

Update Nov. 25 at 4:45 a.m.: Director of Public Safety Vernon Baisden said outside Pomerene Hall that the unidentified male who was removed from Mirror Lake early Wednesday morning is in critical condition at Wexner Medical Center.

“Our immediate concern remains with this young man and his loved ones,” he said. “It is very important for us to identify this young man, and we ask anyone with information regarding his identity to call OSU Police at 614-292-2121.”

Update Nov. 25 at 10:45 a.m.: Ohio State has said in a release that the unidentified man pulled from Mirror Lake died from his injuries after several hours of medical care.

The statement also said that the university is still attempting to identify the man, adding that he is a black male of medium build with tattoos on his left upper chest and right upper arm.

Update Nov. 25 at 12:25 p.m.: OSU has stated in a release, “University leadership strongly agrees that we will work with our campus community to end this annual event.

“We are heartbroken over this horrible tragedy,” University President Michael Drake said in the release, adding that the university has tentatively identified the man as a student and are attempting to reach out to his family.

Counseling services will be made available by the university during the holiday weekend, according to the statement.

“In spite of significant efforts taken to make this event a safer one, this tragedy has occurred. We must come together and acknowledge that while this is a student-led tradition that has been passed down through the years, we cannot risk another tragedy,” the release stated.

Update Nov. 25 at 3:05 p.m.: In a released statement, the university identified the male student who died Wednesday morning as Austin Singletary, a third-year in human nutrition from Dayton.

“I know that the thoughts and prayers of all of us are with his family and loved ones,” Drake said in the statement.


  1. Stupid BlowSU.

  2. Way to go OSU. How did all that “safety” stuff work out for you – passing out arm bands and sending tweets telling students it isn’t safe to jump in the lake? You knew someone was going to die someday – you should have stopped it a long time ago but you didn’t have the balls to do it.

    • Lady Buckeye '08-'12

      As a pretty recent alumna, I agree with you that OSU “should have stopped [the Mirror Lake Jump] a long time ago.” Buckeye Nation already has enough meaningful traditions to commemorate Beat Michigan week, and I am sad that an actual death has to bring this particular event to an end.

  3. Coming from a warm environment and being suddenly immersed in cold water can cause blood vessels to constrict rapidly, which, in turn, causes blood pressure to spike to dangerously high levels. If someone has a weak circulatory system, it can lead to a stroke or heart attack. The reaction is the body’s way of responding to life-threatening situations, trying to maintain core body temperature, but it shouldn’t be abused in the name of sport.

    • Exactly – even an apparently healthy young person could have a serious reaction to immersion in cold water. There are also people with previously undetected heart problems who could die from the stress this causes in the body. We’ve seen this happen in cases where young athletes die unexpectedly during an event. Add into this the number of students who are probably under the influence of some kind of substance and you have a risky situation. It’s beyond comprehension why this has been allowed to go on for so long. They’ve tried to stop it before and some students had a collective temper tantrum and tore down the fence. Apparently they felt the university had no right to tell them what to do. Sorry but they do have the right.

      As far as a law suit goes – this quote from a Columbus Dispatch article from 2013 says it well: “And there’s an odd angle to Ohio State trying to control the jump, said at least one lawyer. The university could be increasing its liability if a student were to get hurt once wristbands are required, said Gerry Leeseberg, a Columbus lawyer who specializes in wrongful-death and personal-injury cases. “The more control they exert, the further the risk they take,” he said.”

      Putting up fences, issuing arm bands, telling people not to do it because it’s not safe, having medics standing by – it’s publicly announcing “hey, we know this isn’t safe but we’re letting you do it anyway.” What the hell was their legal counsel thinking?

  4. a huge wave of lawyers is approaching. Be ready for another tuition hike to pay for all legal expenses, OSU undergrads.

  5. “Odds are you dive in head first”

  6. “Odds are you dive in head first?
    *in unison* “4!”

  7. Lack of empathy during this time is more of a reflection of your character than the university.
    I am deeply concerned for any individual who utilizes a reply forum concerning a student death as a channel to convey negativity toward the situation and the university. A fine university with 35 programs in the top 10 nationally and tied for 16th top public university in the nation. Prayers for this young man and concerns for those who lack empathy…

  8. I guess the university couldn’t wait for an accounting of the facts before jumping to rash decisions. Individuals have died at Nationwide Arena during hockey games and football players have dropped dead on the field but the events continue on.

  9. Just another example of Universities making knee-jerk reactions instead of thinking first. Someone died earlier this year at the Alumni Band practice. Do we ban Alumni Band so that “never again will someone die at Alumni Band”? Of course not.

    People die on highways, at football games, at band practice, at polar bear jumps, at school – people die anywhere you can name. That doesn’t mean you rush to the microphone with your latest ban. I personally did not partake in this jump when I was a student – I simply don’t care for polar bear jumps – but it’s not my place to make that decision for the rest of you.

    The reality is students will continue this tradition whether they’re “allowed” to or not. They’re going to move it around and do it more randomly instead of a set time. And guess what, that just makes it harder to monitor and less safe for students. In the future, I hope students who continue this tradition will do so as safely as possible – be sober; and when you jump in, get out quickly and immediately warm up. Or do what many of us did and avoid it entirely.

  10. Could it be a hate crime?

  11. To get a wristband, you had to sign up and sign a waiver stating that the University was not responsible for any injury sustained during the event.

  12. Do you suppose that egg odor has a cause; it is hydrogen sulfide. It is not a safe chemical for humans. It would be wise not to jump into water where HS is dissolved.

    • Bill, you’re not very smart. Hydrogen Sulfide is not the only compound that releases a sulfur-like odor. There are countless byproducts from the bacteria in that lake which could produce it, HS is only one of them. The university preliminary report believes the man died from complications and possible cardiac arrest from a broken C5 vertebrae.

  13. I was an OSU student from 1983-87. During that time, a female student was thrown into Mirror Lake after a football game, others were jumping in and a friend of hers picked her up and threw her in. She was paralyzed as a result. I can’t believe the University has allowed this “tradition” to exist at all, I didn’t even know about it until hearing about this latest tragedy. All these years students have been jumping in Mirror Lake, what a slap in the face to that young woman who was hurt so many years ago. How cowardly to allow students to continue in a clearly unsafe practice all these years just to avoid making an unpopular decision. Disappointed in my alma mater tonight.

    • Hi Judy,
      I was a student at The Ohio State University from 1984-1989. We were there together, and I remember that tragity like it was yesterday. I lived in Baker Hall, just a block from Mirror Lake. I did know this jumping into Mirror Lake was going on in the 90s until this year. I went back to get my MA in mathematics education in the 2000s and tutored math a lot in the 90s to students. I complainned a lot to officials, and they did not listen to me. I still live here in Columbus, and I am praying and mourning over this rediculous event that has been allowed to continue. Let us pray for the family of Austin and hope this craziness will be forced to stop once and for all. I have always Loved Ohio State and believed it is the best University in the world. I hope officials will do the right thing and stop this so we can still be proud of our blessed University. Weren’t the 80s great!

  14. People can act like this is such a shock that once every 30 years when a huge mass of intoxicated people dive into a near frozen lake something unfortunate happens, but if this person did this under their own free will and signed a waver with the university since it’s now so stupidly sanctioned then I see no reason why the family should be entitled to a dime from the school as he knew what he was doing and nobody’s tuition should skyrocket due to one person’s poor fortune. I jumped 4 times, once I did a cannon ball and didn’t realize it was into the “shallow end” because it wasn’t properly marked like a swimming pool would have been and my knee was messed up for over a month but it was my decision to jump so I wasn’t surprised when something bad happened nor did I get an attorney and try and get the school to pay for medical care….society needs to stop throwing up stupid sanctions! Major League Baseball doesn’t outlaw the upper deck when people fall from the stands….in fifty years everything will be banned.

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