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San Jose State student drowns on school trip

A 19-year-old San Jose man drowned at Sequoia National Park over the weekend while on a trip with his college, National Park Service officials said Monday.

The man has been identified as Billy Nguyen, a San Jose State University sophomore who was visiting the park with other students and school staff members, college President Mary Papazian said in a campus message Monday.

Nguyen was one of five staff members in the group on a trip through the school’s Outdoor Adventures recreation program, where he was a student assistant and underwent training to become a student leader this year, Papazian said.

Rangers at the park received a message about an apparent drowning shortly after 3 p.m. Saturday at Eagle Lake, an area in the southern area of the park about 10,000 feet in elevation near the Mineral King area, park officials said.

Three rangers went up a 3.5-mile trail 2,500 feet in elevation and a helicopter crew was sent to the scene, according to park officials.

The rangers met with the college group, who told them Nguyen might have drowned, park officials said.

Crews were unable to find the 19-year-old man until Sunday and flew his body to the Tulare County coroner’s office, according to park officials.

Nguyen, a kinesiology major, was swimming in the lake where he struggled and sank, Papazian said. The 19-year-old man enjoyed outdoor activities and fitness, she said.

The group he was with tried to rescue him, but they were unsuccessful, according to Papazian:

“As one would imagine, they have been badly shaken by this tragedy. … He has been described to me as someone who, while sometimes reserved, loved group activities and wanted to inspire others to join in and be active.”

Counseling services are available for students to cope with Nguyen’s passing, she said:

“I am heartbroken for the Nguyen family and for all who knew and loved their son. Please keep Billy, his family and friends in your thoughts and your hearts during this difficult time.”

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