A family and community are left devastated after a young student, who traveled from Ireland to the United States to further her education, tragically died in a kayaking trip over the weekend.
Ella Mills, who was studying at Columbia University in New York as part of a dual BA program with Trinity College Dublin in Ireland, joined the university’s Whitewater Kayaking Club on a kayaking trip on the Potomac River in Washington, D.C., Sunday afternoon. She never returned.
According to the Montgomery County Fire & Rescue Service, Mills was in the Little Falls when she became trapped under a rock and was unable to escape. She had only arrived in New York earlier this month, school administrators said in a statement to students.
“Words cannot express how heartbroken I feel for her family, her friends, her loved ones, and those students from the University who were with her on this trip,” Columbia University’s President Minouche Shafik said in a letter.
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Emergency responders were called to Little Falls, a stretch of the river that runs northwest out of Washington, D.C., and into Maryland on Sunday afternoon.
Officials said Mills was pinned under the rock and emergency crews were unsuccessful in getting her free.
Lisa Rosen-Metsch, a dean and professor at Columbia, described Mills as a student who “had a love for learning” and was “intellectually curious” in a letter to the student body.
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“Originally from Dublin, Ella was just beginning her journey at Columbia University as a third-year student in our Dual BA Program with Trinity College Dublin. She arrived in New York earlier this month to begin her studies at Columbia, having completed her English Studies coursework in Dublin. Ella had a love for learning, was intellectually curious, and passionate about literature—eager to soak in new ways of looking at literature and viewing the world as a literary scholar,” Rosen-Metsch wrote. “She was an active member of the Trinity College Dublin community as part of the Trinity College Dublin drama society, the DU Players, the Trinity College Dublin Tennis Club, and the Philosophical Society, among many others.”
Rosen-Metsch added, “She is survived by her loving parents, brother, and sister. Our thoughts and compassion are with them at this very difficult time.”
Approximately two dozen people from Columbia University were on the trip when the accident happened, FOX 5 reported.
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The school hosted a “community reflection” event Monday evening to remember the third-year student at the Peter J. Awn GS Student Lounge in Lewisohn Hall.
Columbia University’s leaders also offered support and guidance to students grappling with the loss, including psychological and religious services.
The investigation into the death remains ongoing.