AMES, Iowa — Last spring semester and again in the fall, COVID-19 prohibited the Iowa State Crew Club from being in the water as a group. This semester was supposed to provide the team with the love of being back in the water. Now, the rowing community far and wide has a heavy heart.
“It brings us all extra thought when a loss occurs while participating in a recreational and physical activity that has brought so much positivity into our lives,” said Katherine Hauser, a board member at Des Moines Rowing, a group that promotes the sport in central Iowa.
According to the Iowa State Crew Club’s website, no experience is necessary to join the 25-30 member club, but instruction is provided. According to the club’s constitution, in Article VIII under “Safety,” the team should not row when wind speeds are above 14 mph. The National Weather Service recorded wind speeds close to 25 mph Sunday at the Ames Municipal Airport, but that is still 15 miles from what may have been better or worse conditions at Little Walk Lake where the crew was practicing Sunday morning.
On Monday, search crews located a second crew member’s body in the lake after the crew of five capsized. Investigators rescued three and sent them to a local hospital Sunday but found one dead before calling the search off due to inclement weather and darkness that night.
Hauser has also been a USRowing referee for nearly a decade. USRowing is the governing body for the sport. Investigators are still looking into the use of life vests, but Hauser says USRowing provides its athletes with an exemption from state life jacket requirements because of the demands of the sport. Personal floatation devices are recommended but not required. “Because it involves bringing that oar very close to the chest of the athlete in a down-and-out motion. If we had a regulation flotation device, the oars could catch on that. It’s not mechanically something the works very well,” Hauser said.
Iowa State University is currently conducting an internal review of policies and procedures related to this incident. The names of the students who died will not be released until family notification is complete.