Little Falls High School class of 2018 graduate Connor Gage has been identified by the University of Vermont as the student who apparently froze to death in a parking lot in Burlington Vermont over the weekend, possibly due to exposure to sub-zero temperatures.
Police said it appeared Gage was walking through the parking lot during the early morning hours Saturday when he stopped by a fence. Gage tried to scale the fence, which was overgrown with tress and bushes.
Police on Tuesday said that a preliminary autopsy found Gage’s death was exacerbated by acute intoxication. Official toxicology results are pending and expected in a few to several weeks.
Investigators said they believe Gage left a party alone at 12:45 a.m. Detectives have video of him about 20 minutes afterward, but they have not released it. Police have not said where Gage was before his death or why he left alone.
Gage was a wrestler and football player at Little Falls High School. According to Superintendent Dr. Keith Levatino “It’s just been so tragic… I don’t know what else to say. We found out about this Saturday and went into action to support the community and the kids because there is still such a major connection with kids currently in the high school and middle school.”
The school had a crisis team meeting on Sunday and established a protocol that they wanted to follow.
“He was such a wonderful young man, and an asset to our school and community,” stated Levatino. “We have a great deal of kids, faculty and staff that are just very upset.”
Counseling is available all day in staging areas at the library and the high school conference room. “Should kids or staff at any time need to go there to just speak with our social workers and counselors, they can do so,” said Levatino.
For graduates, they can come in and meet with the social workers and staff after 3 pm today. Additional information has been placed on the Little Falls School District Facebook page about locations and phone numbers for counseling.
Little Falls Community Outreach is also involved in helping with the counseling, as well as Herkimer County Mental Health. “It’s support for parents, guardians and community members for how to deal with such a tragedy,” stated Levatino.
Annie Stevens, vice provost for student affairs at the University of Vermont, sent a letter Sunday morning to the University of Vermont community. “We extend our deepest condolences to Connor’s family,” Stevens wrote. “Our sincere thoughts of care and sympathy are also extended to his friends, classmates, and to faculty and staff who were close to him.”
Stevens said the university wants to find out if Gage was at a fraternity and drinking alcohol before his death.
“Depending on the facts that become available to us, depending on (police) information and whatever information we gather, then we’ll take our own process through student conduct if we think there’s (sic) policy violations that have occurred, separate from any criminal or civil violations that occurred,” Stevens said.
Police on Sunday morning said in a news release that temperature and “clothing that was inadequate to the weather,” contributed to the student’s death.
Burlington Deputy Chief Jon Murad wrote that police were continuing to investigate the student’s condition and whereabouts prior to his death, but that no foul play was suspected and they do not expect to file criminal charges in the case.
The National Weather Service in Burlington stated the the temperature was between minus 1 and minus 4 and that it was the coldest Ground Hog Day since 1993.
A campus gathering and/or family service is being planned. There were no dates or times, according to the Stevens letter.
Stevens wrote, “when any member of our community passes away, we are bound to feel a profound sense of loss, and reactions are felt in a variety of ways. During this time, we highly encourage you to reach out to your primary support system as a source of care and connection.”
Gage was a member of the Wellness Environment and was also active in the WE Mentor Program in the South Burlington school district, according to Stevens.
He was a first-year student at the university who chose to major in neuroscience.
A page has been set up by the University where students can leave their condolences. According to one comment “Connor’s family please know we are praying for you, so saddened and heartbroken by this tragedy and offer sympathy and condolence to his family and friends.”