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Two recent ASU graduates drown in creek in Camp Verde

Two ASU students who graduated on Saturday drowned at Fossil Creek Wednesday evening

charter-breaking

The ASU charter on Tempe campus by University Drive on Monday, Nov. 1, 2022, in Tempe. Additional illustration elements added on Tuesday, Mar. 19, 2024.


Two recent ASU graduates drowned at Fossil Creek on Wednesday. The bodies of Rakesh Reddy Lakkireddy and Rohith Manikanta Repala were recovered on Thursday, May 9, according to Gila County Sheriff Adam Shepherd. 

Lakkireddy, 23, and Repala, 25, along with a group of 16 friends and graduates, made their way to Fossil Creek on May 8. Lakkireddy graduated with a master's degree in computer science, and Repala graduated with a master's degree in information technology last weekend from the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering.

The group hiked roughly four miles to reach a waterfall in the creek around 3:30 p.m., according to the Payson Roundup, a local newspaper in Payson, Arizona. 

Dispatchers were contacted around 6 p.m., and were told two men had entered a deep section of the pool through the lower Fossil Creek waterfall and had not been seen for nearly 10 minutes.

Sgt. Cole LaBonte of the Gila County Sheriff's Office and his department worked with the Arizona Department of Public Safety Air Rescue unit, Tonto Rim Search and Rescue, Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office and Pine-Strawberry Fire Department to find the two men. Several witnesses confirmed the men had not resurfaced when first responders arrived on scene, according to a statement from Shepherd. 

The limited cell service near Fossil Creek made it difficult for rescue crews to assess the situation. PSFD arrived around 30 minutes after the calls and hiked 20 minutes to the waterfall. An AZDPS helicopter also responded to the scene. 

After 50 minutes of searching, it became too dark to continue the mission. LaBonte and the collective group of first responders decided to hold off until the morning. PSFD reported the mission switched to a recovery operation due to the low likelihood of the men surviving. Tonto Rim Search and Rescue remained on the scene overnight, according to a statement from Shepherd.

On Thursday, the bodies were recovered by divers and their relatives were notified. According to the Payson Roundup, neither men knew how to swim.

In the statement, Shepherd said he offered his "deepest condolences to the family and friends of Rakesh and Rohith" on behalf of the Gila County Sheriffs Office.

The dean of Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, Kyle Squires, said in a statement, "We are deeply saddened by this tragic loss of two of our very recent graduates who were preparing for the next steps in their promising lives. Our sincere condolences go out to the families and friends of Rakesh and Rohith".

The men are two of nine reported deaths in the creek in the past nine years, according to Payson Roundup.

Editor's Note: This story was updated at 10:54 a.m. to include a statement from the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering.

Edited by Sophia Ramirez and Alexis Heichman


Reach the reporters at gheadle@asu.edu and sjames51@asu.edu and follow @George_Headley7  and @sennajames_ on X.

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