Atlanta university student missing in surf at Dominical

Erik L. Downes

A university student from Atlanta, Georgia, is missing and presumed to be the victim of a riptide at a Pacific beach.

He is Erik L. Downes of Cape Coral, Florida, a junior at Oglethorpe University. A university statement said he
disappeared Tuesday evening.

A search is being conducted.

The university said that Oglethorpe students and faculty members are in Costa Rica for a short-term ecological study abroad trip. Downes and others were swimming in the waters off Playa Dominical on the Pacific Coast when they were caught in the riptide, the university said.

Dominical tides can be treacherous. A man who helped set up a lifeguard unit there said that persons can be caught in thigh-high water and could be swept out to sea. The rip tide develops when surf recedes through a narrow channel and all the force of the water is concentrated in a small area.

A pre-med major at the prestigious liberal arts school, Downes leads the Student Senate as vice president of the Student Government Association, said the university. He also is a resident assistant and active in the Center for Civic Engagement service projects, a statement said. He attended Canterbury School in Fort Myers, Florida.

“The thoughts and prayers of the entire Oglethorpe community are with Erik and his family and many friends,” said Lawrence M. Schall, Oglethorpe University president. “In a close-knit community of 1,100 students, this is having an impact on everyone.” He was quoted in the university statement.

“We are continuing to reach out and communicate with our students, parents, faculty and broader community,” said Michelle Hall, dean of students. “We are standing by to provide counseling services to students as they come back to campus from winter break on Sunday.”

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