University of Iowa student found dead amid freezing temperatures in the Midwest
An 18-year-old University of Iowa student has passed away after being found unconscious outside a campus building in the freezing cold.
Gerald Belz was found by campus police lying on the ground behind Halsey Hall in extreme temperatures just before 3 am on Wednesday.
The unresponsive teenager, who was studying pre-med, was taken to the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics where he later died.
In a press release, the university said: "We are saddened to share we’ve lost a member of the Hawkeye family. Our thoughts are with his family, friends, and loved ones."
Belz was described by his father as a "mama's boy with a tough exterior" who wanted to be a doctor to help people. Michael Belz said his son was tough, compassionate and wanted to be a cardiologist.
Mr Belz, who claimed the last time he saw his son was on Sunday night, said he decided to speak out about the 18-year-old's death after social media comments blamed it on alcohol.
An investigation into the freshman's death is still ongoing but the passing is believed to be weather-related.
His father said his son sent text messages to his girlfriend shortly after 12:30 am saying that he was going to bed. According to that conversation, he told his girlfriend he did not have plans to go out that night.
"He replied that it was too cold," his father said.
Stating that doctors had repeatedly told him that there was no alcohol in his son's system when he was brought in, he continued: "We just want to stress that this was not alcohol-related. There’s still questions that need to be answered and those answers will be coming in due time."
Although officials are said to believe no foul play was involved, the teenager's father said the moments leading up to his son's death were puzzling.
"I know some things that I’m not making public right now that really don’t make sense to me or the rest of his family concerning the circumstances of his passing," he said.
The last time Belz, who lived in the Burge Residence Hall, was active on social media was at one in the morning.
The 18-year-old, said to be a "quiet tough guy", graduated just last May from Cedar Rapids Kennedy High School.
Although he was in his second semester at the University of Iowa, Belz had reportedly earned enough credits to be considered a second-year student.
"Everybody's certainly going to be affected by this," said Head Football Coach Brian White. "In our community, we look at Kennedy as a family and certainly our football program as a family."
The Johnson County Medical Examiners Officer said Belz’s death is still under investigation and a full toxicology report won’t be released for a few weeks.
For students struggling with the news, a list of resources can be found on the university’s safety and support website. The University of Iowa is encouraging students to reach out if they are in need of support.