August 5, 2017

NYS Dive Team Finds Dead Body of Cornell Student in Ithaca Falls Gorge

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This article has been updated.

The man found dead in the Ithaca Falls gorge on Saturday evening was an incoming Cornell student born in the Dominican Republic who made headlines in the fall of 2016 when a video of him reading his college acceptance letter was posted online.

Raised in the Bronx, Winston S. Perez Ventura ’22 drowned in the gorge while swimming, Ryan Lombardi, vice president for student and campus life, said in a statement.

“He was an exceptional person who would have contributed greatly to our university community,” Lombardi said of the architecture student.

Perez Ventura’s mother told ABC News in 2016 that she brought her son to the United States when he was nine so that he could get a good education.

Her son would become a member of the first ever freshman class at Democracy Prep Harlem High School, according to ABC News. His high school classmates celebrated his Cornell acceptance, which was captured in a video that made regional headlines.

The New York State dive team recovered the student’s body in the Ithaca Falls gorge around 7:20 p.m. Saturday after a search for a missing person had been issued earlier in the afternoon.

A search for a missing person had been underway since about 2:33 p.m. Saturday, when the Ithaca Police Department was dispatched to Ithaca Falls near Fall Creek Drive on a call that someone had gone into the gorges to swim and had not come out.

The IPD was the lead agency in the search, though the New York State Police had dispatched a helicopter and a dive team to help find the missing person. The Cornell University Police Department and the Ithaca Fire Department were also aiding the search.

Chief of Police Peter Tyler issued a statement in the IPD media release urging people to follow the signs posted around the gorges.

“The Ithaca gorges are so, so beautiful but they can be very dangerous if folks don’t obey the posted signs,” he said. “The signs are in place for no other reason than to keep folks safe when they enter our gorges.”

Correction: A previous version of this story misstated Perez Ventura’s class year. In fact, he was about to begin a five year program and graduate in 2022.