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Fort Lewis College reports one student dead, another in critical condition

No cause of death given, but ‘toxic substance was likely involved’

Fort Lewis College announced Wednesday that one student has died and another is in critical condition.

Campus police responded late Tuesday to a report of two unresponsive women in a parked car on campus, according to scanner reports and a letter sent from FLC President Tom Stritikus to students.

“While our campus police cannot determine an official cause of death or harm at this time, they’ve indicated that a toxic substance was likely involved,” Stritikus wrote in his letter. “There were no signs of foul play, no threat to campus, and no indication that this was a death by suicide.”

A college spokeswoman sent a statement to The Durango Herald that largely echoed the contents of the letter. The spokeswoman declined to provide additional information, including more information about the toxic substance believed to have been involved.

La Plata County Coroner Jann Smith said the two women were sisters, one age 18 and the other age 19. The 19-year-old woman died, she said. She declined to identify the woman Wednesday and Thursday, saying an investigation remained active.

She said an autopsy was performed Wednesday and the Coroner’s Office is awaiting the results of toxicology reports to determine a cause of death.

“There wasn’t anything else there, no injuries no medical issues or anything,” Smith said.

In his letter, Stritikus said the college is working with the students' families before communicating additional information.

“It’s with profound sadness I notify you of this news,” Stritikus’ letter reads.

The college made counselors available Wednesday for drop-in visits at the Counseling Center in Noble Hall as well as the Rio Grande Room in the Student Union.

“This is an extremely difficult situation, especially since we don’t have all the answers,” the college’s statement reads. “Right now, we’re focusing on providing students with counseling resources and opportunities to grieve, process, and be in community with one another.”


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