ROWING NEWS:  Former Advisor and Crew Club Coach Cleared of Wrongful Death Charges in Tragic Rowing Accident

ROWING NEWS: Former Advisor and Crew Club Coach Cleared of Wrongful Death Charges in Tragic Rowing Accident

In a recent development surrounding the tragic rowing accident at Little Wall Lake on March 28, 2021, a former Iowa State University Crew Club coach and a former school faculty advisor have been absolved of wrongful death charges. The dismissal comes as they were dropped from a lawsuit against the State of Iowa and Iowa State University due to their roles being classified as "volunteer" within the organization.

The incident claimed the lives of two Iowa State Crew Club members, resulting from their boat capsizing amidst cold and windy conditions. Despite the efforts of three club members to survive, Iowa State freshman Nanni and sophomore Yaakov Ben-David tragically drowned in the frigid waters.

Legal action ensued, with Ben-David's parents initiating a lawsuit against the State of Iowa, Iowa State University, former ISU Assistant Director for Sports Clubs in Recreation Services John Wolfe, and subsequently adding former faculty advisor Jeffrey Iles and former Crew Club coach Dustin Gentry as defendants in January 2024. The lawsuit comprised three counts of wrongful death, one count of loss of consortium, and a breach of contract for Iles and Gentry.

However, on April 26, a Story County judge dismissed all six charges against Iles and Gentry, ruling that their roles as volunteers with the ISU Crew Club rendered them immune from personal liability in connection to the wrongful death and loss of consortium charges.

The focus of the trial now shifts to the remaining defendants, including Iowa State and the State of Iowa, who will proceed to trial on three counts of wrongful death and one count of loss of consortium. Notably, the charges of breach of contract directed towards Iles and Gentry were also dismissed.

This legal development underscores the complexities surrounding the tragic accident, which investigators later attributed to years of misjudgments, inadequate oversight, and a disregard for safety procedures within the crew club and university administration.

Despite prior warnings, including an email from a crew club member to Iowa State's Office of Recreation Services in February 2020 highlighting safety concerns and the lack of adherence to USRowing protocols, adequate safety measures were not implemented.

As the legal proceedings continue, the profound impact of this incident serves as a stark reminder of the critical importance of safety protocols and diligent oversight in recreational activities, particularly those involving water sports.

While the legal chapter unfolds, the memory of those lost in this tragic accident remains in the hearts of many, prompting reflection and renewed efforts towards ensuring the safety and well-being of all participants in collegiate sporting activities.

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