Record-Low Temps Blamed for Death of Univ. of Iowa Student

The student was found unconscious near his dorm building on campus as temperatures in the Midwest are hitting record lows.

Record-Low Temps Blamed for Death of Univ. of Iowa Student

Investigators believe his death was related to the subzero temperatures that plunged Iowa and all of the Midwest into a miserable and dangerous cold snap this week.

A student from the University of Iowa was found dead early Wednesday morning outside a campus building as temperatures were subzero.

Investigators believe the student, 18-year-old Gerald Belz, died from cold weather, reports The New York Times.

When the student was discovered around 3 a.m., temperatures were minus-21 degrees with a windchill of minus-55. He was taken to the hospital where he later died.

According to government officials, Belz is one of the at least 21 others whose deaths are believed to be related to the dangerously cold weather. Hospitals have been filling up with patients experiencing hypothermia and frostbite.

There have been several reported deaths from traffic accidents in Illinois, Wisconsin and Michigan. A pedestrian was also hit by a snowplow and a woman in Milwaukee was found frozen to death in her apartment after her thermostat stopped working.

Classes at the university had been canceled until Thursday due to the weather. According to Belz’s father, his son had decided to remain on campus to wait out the cold.

“At the time, I thought that was the smart move,” Michael Belz said. “I didn’t want him to get stuck somewhere driving. So he decided he would stay.”

Police do not suspect foul play; however, the cause of death will be looked into further as labs come back in the following weeks.

Mr. Belz says there was no alcohol found in his son’s system at his time of death, reports The Washington Post.

Belz sent a text message to his girlfriend around 12:30 a.m., saying he was going to bed and did not plan on leaving his dorm because of the cold. It remains unclear what prompted him to venture outside.

“Losing a fellow student and member of our Hawkeye family can be very difficult,” the university tweeted. “Our thoughts are with Gerald’s family, friends and loved ones.”

The University of Iowa will be offering grief counseling for students during this tragic time.

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About the Author


Katie Malafronte is Campus Safety's Web Editor. She graduated from the University of Rhode Island in 2017 with a Bachelor's Degree in Communication Studies and a minor in Writing & Rhetoric. Katie has been CS's Web Editor since 2018.

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