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Alcohol May Factor Into Drowning of Garden City Park College Student

Witnesses say Northwestern student Harsha Maddula was drinking alcohol at party before he drowned.

Evanston police say alcohol may be a contributing factor in the death of Harsha Maddula, a Northwestern University sophomore who drowned in Wilmette Harbor this September.

The pre-med student from Garden City Park, NJ, was last seen alive leaving a party in the 2000 block of Ridge Avenue around 12:30 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 22. He was reported missing the following Monday, and police found his body in Wilmette Harbor on Thursday, Sept. 27.

Since his death, police have been interviewing students who attended the party with Maddula and canvassed the area around Wilmette Harbor. While the canvass revealed no new information, some of the students who attended the party told police that he was intoxicated that night, according to Evanston Police Cmdr. Jay Parrott.

“There were some witnesses that saw him consuming alcohol,” Parrott said, adding that students also told police that Maddula was drunk when he left the party.

Parrott cautioned that many of the students whom police had interviewed were drunk at the party themselves, however, and that their interpretations were subjective.

The Cook County Medical Examiner's Office , meaning it could be either a suicide or an accident. Police are still waiting for a complete toxicology report from the Medical Examiner’s Office, which could take up to eight weeks to produce, officials say.

Maddula’s friends and family say he was a good swimmer who was unlikely to drown under normal circumstances.

“There’s no way he would have drowned like that,” his maternal uncle, Vasu Kakollo, told Patch at his funeral. “Nobody knows what kind of condition he was in, if he did fall. Medically, he was fine.”           

According to friends and family, Maddula had recently been diagnosed with type I diabetes, which requires insulin injections to stabilize sugar levels in the blood. .

“He was a wonderful, intelligent, kind, caring kid,” Kakollu said. “He had so many dreams and so many visions he wanted to do. So sad that everything is cut short.”

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