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Body of missing FGCU student boater found in Lake Como

Multiple agencies were continuing to investigate a drowning Thursday involving a student who had been boating on Lake Como in the North Lake Village at the university.
Michael Braun
Florida Fish & Wildlife Commission agents and Lee County Sheriff's Office deputies return to shore Thursday after successfully recovering the body of an FGCU student who had fallen into Lake Como at the North Lake Village of the university Wednesday evening. The student has been identified as Graham McGrath, 19.

The body of a 19-year-old FGCU student who fell off a boat in Lake Como Wednesday night was found shortly before 11:30 a.m. Thursday.

Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno disussed the case at a late morning press conference at the lake in the North Lake Village of FGCU and said that an investigation into the death of the student, identified as Graham McGrath, continues.

Marceno said McGrath's body had no signs of trauma and was found around 11:20 a.m. Thursday at the west end of the lake. The lake is shared by FGCU and the Miromar Lakes development.

Florida Gulf Coast University President Aysegul Timur issued a statement shortly after McGrath body was recovered.

"The entire FGCU community is devastated by the loss of Graham. Our hearts and deepest sympathy go out to Graham’s family, the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity, his friends and all members of our Eagle community as we cope with this unfortunate tragedy," the new president said.

Multiple agencies were involved in the initial investigation with the Lee County Sheriff's Office, San Carlos Park Fire District and the Florida Fish & Wildlife Commission on scene around 7 p.m. Wednesday after a 911 call reported the incident.

Marceno said there were 13 people on the boat, described as a wake-style boat designed to create a deep wake in a body of water.

Multiple agencies and FGCU officials were continuing to investigate a drowning Thursday involving a university student who had been boating on Lake Como in the North Village at the university.
Multiple agencies and FGCU officials were continuing to investigate a drowning Thursday involving a university student who had been boating on Lake Como in the North Village at the university.

At a press conference Wednesday night, Marceno described what happened: "About 7 p.m., Lee County Sheriff's office received a call for a missing boater. The boat was a private vessel. That private vessel came from the neighboring community at Miromar Lakes through a shared lake, Lake Como. So they were boating in the shared lake between FGCU and Miromar lakes, Lake Como. At some point, one of the occupants went over the [side of the] boat. At this point in time he never returned. I will tell you that that occupant is a male student of FGCU. There were 13 occupants on a boat with a capacity of 16."

Marceno also confirmed that the boaters had been out on the water for much of the day Wednesday.

Few details of what happened on the boat were available. When questioned if drugs or alcohol were suspected in the death, Marceno said every aspect of the events leading to MCGrath's death would be checked. He confirmed that the 12 remaining passengers were being questioned.

He said more would be known as the medical examiner's investigation progressed as well.

Divers search for the body of an FGCU student at Lake Como Thursday. The body was later recovered.
Dennis Wright
Special to WGCU
Divers search for the body of an FGCU student at Lake Como Thursday. The body was later recovered.

Marceno cited the murky quality to the Lake Como water being checked during the recovery process and said divers had to check by hand the areas suspected of holding the body.
President Aysegul also issued a statement offering counseling services and commenting on the incident.

"I am writing this message to inform you that the Lee County Sheriff Office, in conjunction with multiple local agencies, is actively leading the search efforts for one of our own," Timur said. "An FGCU student who had been on a private boat on the shared lake between Miromar Lakes Development and our university went missing on Wednesday evening. We don’t have further information to share at this time. Our positive thoughts and wishes go out to his family, friends, classmates and all other Eagle family members as we wait for updated information on the search."

Aysegul said mental health and counseling services were available for FGCU students, faculty and staff.

"If you are in need of assistance or other resources, do not hesitate to ask," she said.


  • Use of  Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) office requires no appointments. The CAPS team can be reached at (239) 590-7950 and by email at caps@fgcu.edu. Outside of normal business hours (evenings, weekends and holidays), please call the CAPS help line at (239) 745-EARS (3277).   
  • Student CARE Services is available to assist with resources and referrals. Contact the team by text at (239) 350-4536, phone call at (239) 590-7728 or email at care@fgcu.edu. To learn more about the office, visit the Eagles Care website


Employee Assistance Program (EAP) services, including mental health counseling, are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, at (833) 746-8337 or online at www.mylifeexpert.com. Use company code: Florida.  

Student officer's comment

Student body president Emory Calvin issued a message on Thursday about the tragic incident and McGrath:

"He was a 19-year-old sophomore that transferred here from Illinois and a member of Pi Kappa Alpha. This is an incredibly difficult time for all of us at FGCU. Every single student has an incalculable amount to contribute to the world and the people around them, and that potential being cut short is a tragedy. I would like to express my deepest sympathy to his family, friends, fraternity brothers, and every member of our community. This is an incredibly difficult day for us all.

"... if you are being impacted emotionally by this situation, you can walk into CAPS any time during business hours without an appointment. Even if you did not know Graham personally, if this situation is affecting you, please know that your experience is still valid and there is absolutely nothing wrong with seeking support. We strongly encourage you to do so.

"Today is an important reminder to hold our loved ones close and lean on each other as much as possible as we navigate our way through such a devastating loss. Please be mindful of those grieving and respect their privacy."

alvin said anyone can contact student govenment for help at sgpres@fgcu.edu.

"We fully intend to support anyone involved in every way we possibly can," Calvin said.

FWC/Tips for Safe Boating

The FWC offers boating safety recommendations and urges adherance to state boating rules:

  • Wear a life jacket. According to recent boating accident statistics, half of all boating deaths are due to drowning. This tragedy is preventable by  always wearing a life jacket while boating. Learn more about choosing the right life jacket.
  • Be aware of your surroundings. A significant percentage of boating accidents are due to collisions attributed to operator inattention or improper lookout. Pay attention and maintain 360-degree awareness while operating a boat.
  • Designate a sober driver. About a quarter of all boating accidents are alcohol- or drug-related. Plus, operating a vessel while impaired is illegal and operators can face arrest if found to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs.  Celebrate after you’re done boating or make sure you have a designated driver.
  • Take a Boating Safety Course. About three quarters of operators involved in fatal boating accidents have no formal boater education. An educated boater is a safer boater! All boat operators can benefit from taking a boating safety course, even those not required to complete one.  Find a boating safety course.
  • Check your safety gear. In addition to all vessels being equipped with life jackets, boaters are also required to have a whistle or horn. In addition, the FWC recommends buying, registering and having an emergency locator beacon onboard. Boats also may be required to have lights, fire extinguisher and flares.
  • File a Float Plan. Let family and friends know where you are going and when you expect to return.  The sooner rescuers can locate an overdue boater, the more likely the outcome will be positive. Download a float plan form.
  • Know Where You’re Going. Familiarize yourself with local boating speed zones before setting out and always travel at a safe speed for environmental conditions. 
  • Watch the Weather. Weather on the water can change rapidly. Always check the forecast before you go boating and keep an eye out for storms and rough seas.
  • Stay with the boat. If you find yourself in open water after an accident or your boat capsizes, do your best to stay with the boat even if it’s partially submerged. A vessel, even a small one, is more visible to rescuers so staying with the boat can increase your chances of being found.
  • Report boating violations and dangerous or irresponsible vessel operation to the Wildlife Alert Program.
  • Know and follow the rules. Learn more about regulations related to boaters, personal watercraft, skiers, divers, and snorkelers at MyFWC.com/Boating.

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