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Newly released findings: ISU Crew Club members drowned during their first practice on water

Derek Nanni and Yaakov Ben-David died during the club's first water practice in 18 months.

AMES, Iowa — Newly released findings revealed the two Iowa State University Crew Club members who drowned on March 28 had never rowed on the water before.

Both Derek Nanni and Yaakov Ben-David had attended several practices on land, but that day was the club's first water practice in 18 months due to the pandemic. 

"Due to high-excitement, rational decision-making pertaining to the water conditions were likely decreased," the U.S. Council for Athletes' Health (USCAH) review found

The boat carrying Nanni, Ben-David and three other team members capsized on Little Wall Lake due to the strong winds that day. The three other members made it to shore with some help from bystanders and were taken to a hospital, but Nanni and Ben-David did not survive.

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

Both the USCAH review and the internal report from the ISU Committee to Review Student Organization Sport Clubs Policies and Procedures found club leadership failed to follow safety protocols. The Crew Club constitution prohibited rowing in winds greater than 14 mph. Before practice that day, leadership noted the wind speed was around 15 mph but decided to check out the conditions in person.

According to the internal review, "Some members of club leadership reported the water being calm with only 'tiny ripples,' while another reported smooth water where it was shallow but waves beyond what they had rowed in before in other areas of the lake."

Leadership ultimately decided to hold practice after seeing the conditions, even though observational weather reports indicated wind gusts reached 18 to 29 mph that morning.

The constitution also prohibits rowing in conditions outside of members' ability levels. Since Ben-David and Nanni didn't have prior rowing experience, they should not have been permitted to practice that day according to the internal investigation.

"If water rowing were undertaken in such conditions it would only be appropriate for advanced experienced rowers in combination with the use of a properly equipped coach/safety launch," the report found.

Both the internal and external reviews found ISU to be deficient in implementing health and safety policies. The university has suspended Crew Club activities for the 2021-22 school year and will develop a new risk management plan for club sports.

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

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