Ella Mills was a junior who had recently arrived from Dublin as a student in Columbia’s dual BA program with Trinity College
A Columbia University student died while kayaking on the Potomac River with a group from the school on Sunday, officials said.
Ella Mills, a junior who had recently arrived from Dublin as a student in Columbia’s dual BA program with Trinity College, was on a trip with the university’s Whitewater Kayaking Club when the accident occurred, according to Lisa Rosen-Metsch, dean of the Columbia School of General Studies.
Along with three others, Mills’ kayak capsized while descending the Little Falls rapid, local whitewater kayaker Tim Atwell told NPR.
"I saw all three of them flip one after the other. And with the speed of the current, they just didn't see it coming when they flipped," Atwell told the outlet.
Atwell said he paddled to her side as soon as he could, but Mills' spray skirt — a piece of gear that is used to seal a rider inside the kayak — was caught between rocks.
"We got to her within seconds,” he told NPR. “But her head was submerged under water. It was a futile effort. She was really stuck."
The Montgomery County Fire & Rescue Service was alerted to the incident at about 3:15 p.m., per The Washington Post. Mills had "presumably drowned" by the time they reached her, the agency said in a statement, according to NPR.
The public incident report from the Metropolitan Police Department of D.C. obtained by PEOPLE on Wednesday said, "MOCO Fire and Rescue advised MPD that they had received a call at 1514 hours for a kayaker that was stuck in the Potomac River near the Maryland/DC line."
"SUB-1 was removed from the river by the SWIFT team at 1627 hours, however showed no signs consistent with life," the report concluded.
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The Metropolitan Police Department of D.C. has opened an investigation into Mills’ death, per NPR.
In a letter to students in the university’s general studies program, Rosen-Metsch informed students about Mills’ death.
“Ella had a love for learning, was intellectually curious, and passionate about literature—eager to soak in new ways of looking at literature and viewing the world as a literary scholar,” Rosen-Metsch wrote.
“She was an active member of the Trinity College Dublin community as part of the Trinity College Dublin drama society, the DU Players, the Trinity College Dublin Tennis Club, and the Philosophical Society, among many others," the dean added. "She is survived by her loving parents, brother, and sister. Our thoughts and compassion are with them at this very difficult time.”
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