After 25 years, the annual Mirror Lake jump tradition may finally come to a close after an Ohio State student died from jump-related injuries on Wednesday.
Austin Singletary, a third-year in human nutrition, died on Wednesday morning after jumping into the lake early that morning. The Franklin County coroner has tentatively determined that Singletary died of a broken neck. The final coroner’s report is expected in about five weeks.
“We are heartbroken over this horrible tragedy,” said University President Michael Drake in a statement released mid-day on Wednesday.
Drake added in the statement that OSU leadership was in strong agreement that they would work with the campus community to end the tradition.
“In spite of significant efforts taken to make this event a safer one, this tragedy has occurred,” Drake said. “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.”
Undergraduate Student Government President Abby Grossman and USG Vice President Abby Waidelich echoed Drake’s message of discontent with the tradition in a joint statement released the day of Singletary’s death.
“Tradition is rooted deep into our Buckeye spirit, however, some traditions put our community at risk,” the statement said. “As student leaders, our main priority has always been the safety of each and every Buckeye. We cannot support an event that puts lives at risk. We will work with university leadership and put an end to the Mirror Lake annual jump.”
The statement asked the OSU community to come together in support of Singletary’s family and friends before stating they were dedicated to working with the OSU community to create “a new tradition to unite all Buckeyes during the Beat Michigan Week.”
USG General Assembly is scheduled to meet this Wednesday, where resolution 48-R-21: A Resolution to Advocate for Student Safety by Ending the Mirror Lake Jump is expected to be proposed.
This year, students who planned to jump or spectate from inside the fencing picked up wristbands at the Ohio Union and RPAC. Wristbands were required to be worn, and only one could be issued per student.
Brooke Siesel, a fourth-year in human development and family sciences, told The Lantern on Nov. 23 that she would be making the jump. Siesel said she arrived at 11:30 p.m. and walked through the gate and into the crowd after displaying her wristband. She jumped, wrapped a blanket around herself and headed home. Later, she heard the news about Singletary.
“The next day when I heard about the loss of a classmate, that was sad. That’s tragic to hear that this tradition I’ve participated in for four years and people have participated in before could lead to the death of a student,” she said on Monday. “The student happened to be in my college, which was also hard to hear. I thought, ‘Did I have any classes with him?’ It made me realize that could’ve been anyone. That could’ve been a friend, another classmate.”
Siesel said that college students think that nothing bad can happen to them, especially because the Mirror Lake jump is a tradition that has been going on for years.
“But with this loss, there needs to be a change,” she said. “I agree with Ohio State officials and the talk that we’re going to stop the Mirror Lake jump because it did end in a loss.”
University efforts to regulate the event included the distribution of wristbands to make the jump for the third consecutive year, the release of safety guidelines, the fencing off of the lake and the University Police presence.
Present safety personnel could remove anyone from Mirror Lake who posed a threat to student safety, which could include being under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or dangerous behavior like flipping, pushing or diving, according to the university’s guidelines and safety tips.
Though the event is regulated, the jump is not university-sponsored. In the past, representatives from the College of Optometry and Student Health Services have warned those considering the jump of the risks, which include hypothermia, frostbite, broken bones, as well as various types of infection.
Past Mirror Lake-related tragedies include the death of 28-year-old Tushar Shriram Kabre, whose cause of death was near drowning a month after being pulled from the lake in 2013, and the head injury that left graduate Kristyn Elliot paralyzed after falling into the lake in 1985. Neither tragedy was directly linked to the Mirror Lake jump tradition itself.
Although some students have expressed discontent with the possible cancellation of the Mirror Lake jump, Siesel said their feelings are misplaced.
“People who are against (the jump) ending aren’t putting it into perspective that on Wednesday they woke up and they could go home and do whatever they were doing — spending time with friends and family for Thanksgiving,” she said. “They had the opportunity to spend that with their families, but Austin didn’t.”