Phillip Zukowski ’23, a sophomore studying computer science, was found dead Saturday near Ezra’s Tunnel in the Ithaca Falls Natural Area, Vice President for Student and Campus Life Ryan Lombardi wrote in a Sunday afternoon statement. The cause of his death is currently unknown.
Zukowski was a student in the College of Arts and Sciences, where he was interested in computer science. He transferred to Cornell from Grinnell College in the fall 2020 semester, and had joined the Phi Kappa Tau fraternity and lived in Becker House. He was 19.
As a high school student in Jamaica, Queens, he learned Python through the Google Ignite computer science program at Columbia University, according to Lombardi.
The Ithaca Police Department responded to the area — around Ezra’s Tunnel — at around 10:48 a.m. on Saturday, according to IPD Lieutenant Theodore Schwartz.
At 11:26 a.m. on Saturday, 14850.com tweeted about a technical rescue operation underway at Fall Creek gorge near Willard Way; IPD announced around 8 p.m. that the body of a 19-year-old male had been found, but did not release his identity.
The Ithaca Fire Department, the Tompkins County Medical Examiner’s Office, Bangs Ambulance and Cornell University Police also responded to the scene. IPD is continuing to investigate the incident, but currently does not suspect the death to be the result of a criminal act.
Anyone who may have been in the area of North Willard Way and Ezra’s Tunnel between the hours of 1 a.m. and 10 a.m. on Saturday, May 8 is asked to contact the Ithaca Police Department at 607-330-0000 or by using the anonymous tip form at www.cityofithaca.org/ipdtips.
This is the fifth unexpected student death in the past school year. First-year computer science student Shawn West ’24 was found unresponsive in a dorm room after a day of search in early April. Health care policy student Matthew Crovella ’23 died unexpectedly of a medical episode in late January. At the end of the fall semester, chemistry and chemical biology Ph.D. student Wai Hang (Will) Lee died unexpectedly; in December, environment and sustainability student KAR Robison ’22 died unexpectedly.
Support meetings are being scheduled for the Cornell community, as well as organizations that Zukowski was most closely engaged with, Lombardi said.
Students in need of professional mental health support can call Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) at 607-255-5155 and employees can call the Faculty and Staff Assistance Program (FSAP) at 607-255-2673. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all CAPS and FSAP services are currently being delivered via telehealth. Whenever these services are closed, calls are answered by Cornell Health’s on-call mental health provider. The Ithaca-based Crisisline is also available at 607-272-1616. A wide range of supportive resources is also available at caringcommunity.cornell.edu.
John Yoon ’23 contributed reporting.