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After Iowa State crew club drownings, reviews find university 'deficient' in implementing health, safety policies

Iowa State University commissioned two reviews following the accident that left students Derek Nanni and Yaakov Ben-David dead on March 28.

AMES, Iowa — Two reviews commissioned by Iowa State University say the university failed to implement health and safety policies for sports clubs which led to the deaths of two crew club members back in March. 

According to a press release, ISU commissioned two reviews following the boating accident that happened at Little Wall Lake on March 28. The accident left students Derek Nanni and Yaakov Ben-David dead. 

One review was independent and the other was internal. The independent review was conducted by the U.S. Council for Athletes Health (USCAH) with assistance from Mark Wilson, who is the co-founder of All American Rowing Camp. 

The internal review was completed by a "committee of university personnel with student activity and student organization expertise from the Office of University Counsel, the Office of Risk Management, the Student Activities Center and the Department of Public Safety Transportation Services." 

The actual reviews have yet to be released. The university says they will be released after "appropriate student-privacy measures" are completed. 

ISU broke down the findings in the press release, noting the similarities from both reviews. 

RELATED: Sheriff's office identifies 2 ISU students who died in boating accident at Hamilton County lake

Both reviews found ISU to be "deficient" in implementing health and safety policies. 

"This deficiency led to an inadequate level of health and safety oversight, training, and support for the Crew Club, as well as other higher risk sport clubs," the release says. "The current operating and management structure of student organizations generally allows sport clubs, including those like the Crew Club, to operate largely autonomously without prescribed and consistent oversight by the university." 

The reviews also concluded that the university "failed to clearly define roles and responsibilities for effective oversight of sport clubs, especially for higher risk activities such as the Crew Club."

The press release says the Crew Club leadership "failed to follow critical health and safety procedures identified in the club’s constitution, its governing document" on the day of the accident. 

RELATED: Iowa State to review sports club policy after crew drownings

RELATED: High school teammates, coach remember 'selfless' ISU student Derek Nanni, one of two killed in rowing accident

The following health and safety standards weren't applied on the day of the accident: 

  • Wind speeds were acknowledged to be outside of acceptable limits by Crew Club student leaders just prior to the on-water activity occurring, but the activity was not canceled.
  • Crew Club student leadership failed to adequately respond to worsening weather conditions as the practice proceeded.
  • No safety launch boat was used, despite being required under the conditions.
  • No team member or coach was onshore or in a safety launch to relay changing conditions or respond to an emergency, despite being a requirement.
  • Two team members lacked sufficient on-water experience for the weather and water conditions present, violating the club’s constitutional requirement that does not permit members to row in conditions outside of their ability levels.
  • Team leadership did not ensure that proper safety equipment or communication devices were available in the case of an emergency.

Because of all of these findings, ISU will be suspending Crew Club activities for "at least the 2021-2022 academic year" for health and safety measures to be adopted. 

Appropriate offices will be tasked with developing a new plan for the reconstruction or reorganization of the sports club category of student organizations. That plan must "at minimum" include the following: 

  • A risk review of each sport club, assessing each as “high,” “moderate” or “low” risk.
  • The development of a plan to implement additional required safety training and a system of accountability for safety training specific to each club designated as “high” or “moderate” risk. The plan should include safety training for all team members, coaches and advisors.
  • A plan for implementing policy revisions and clarifications that clearly define the authority and roles of advisors and other administrators in Recreation Services and Risk Management regarding health and safety. This will include clear authority for advisors and other designated administrators to halt any activity for health and safety reasons.
  • The plan should analyze all other recommendations set forth in both reviews and provide recommendations regarding what other structural changes may be necessary to address the concerns identified in the reviews.

ISU says it'll prepare an after-action report about the specific changes that will be made in response to these recommendations, which will be completed by Jan. 31, 2022. Implementation will be completed by the end of spring semester 2022, according to the university.