Update on boating accident review

AMES, Iowa – Iowa State University and the Crew Club at Iowa State are continuing to work with the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Department and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources in its ongoing investigation of the boating accident on March 28, at Little Wall Lake in Hamilton County. The university is also developing the framework for its review of university and sport club policies and procedures.

As part of that process, USRowing will conduct a safety review specific to the day of the accident and of safety policies and practices for the Crew Club in general. USRowing is a nonprofit membership organization recognized by the United States Olympic Committee as the national governing body for the sport of rowing in the United States.

Over the past two days, student members of the Crew Club, brought forward concerns that were shared with Recreational Services in February 2020 about the safety of the Crew Club. At that time, the president of the Crew Club shared with Recreational Services that three actions should be taken: building a dock; repairing or purchasing a new launch/coach boat; and, implementing a mandatory swim test for team members. Of these, the swim competency test was implemented by the club. The club also began fundraising for a new dock and raised $19,500 of its $25,000 goal. To the university’s knowledge, no launch/coach boat was acquired.    

The Crew Club is a recognized, student-led sport club at Iowa State. In the current student organization structure, student organization sport clubs have three ways to obtain resources: student government appropriations, club dues and fundraising and gifts. Several years ago, student government largely stopped funding capital projects for most student organizations, which would include items like docks and boats. Meaning that student organizations, like the Crew Club must rely on fundraising or membership dues to fund capital projects. 

In general, the university’s 55 student organization sport clubs have great autonomy in their operations. The university’s review will include analyzing whether this level of autonomy is appropriate in the context of sport club activities, whether the nature of the relationship fosters the correct level of support and oversight between the sport clubs and the university, whether the university adequately responded to the safety concerns raised by the Crew Club president and other issues identified through the review. The structural review will not only include the Crew Club, but all other student organization sport clubs. As an immediate step the university will create the position of Sport Club Safety Officer, which will be housed in the Office of Risk Management.

The Iowa State Crew Club members, coaches and advisor are working with the university and USRowing to provide information as part of the review. The club has decided it will not practice, compete or hold other activities until the review is complete.

University leaders recognize there are many questions, and are committed to a comprehensive and thorough review and implementing the actions identified in the review.

The university community again conveys its deep sorrow and condolences to the family, friends and loved ones of Yaakov Ben-David and Derek Nanni who lost their lives in the accident, and its continuing support for the other students of the Crew Club at Iowa State.