Senior Drowns During a High School Tradition

Victor Rodriguez was taking part in senior scavenger hunt at New Jersey's Alcyon Lake
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 14, 2023 10:20 AM CDT
Senior Dies Taking Part in High School Tradition
Victor Rodriguez, as shown on a GoFundMe page that has raised more than $52,000 to cover funeral expenses. It notes the teen's death came as part of "a scavenger hunt that went astray."   (GoFundMe)

A New Jersey teen died days before his high school graduation while trying to swim across a lake as part of what students describe as a school scavenger hunt. The Pitman High School "senior scavenger" has been a local tradition for more than 15 years, per CBS News. One of the listed tasks is to swim across the once-toxic Alcyon Lake, a 17.5-acre body of water that has been closed to swimmers for decades. "It's known for being nasty ... and you get a lot of points for it," a student says, per CBS. That's reportedly why 18-year-old Victor Rodriguez, a Pitman senior and member of the school wrestling team, ventured into the Gloucester County lake on Sunday.

Two others who were at the lake watched as he struggled in the water and then disappeared, Pitman Police Chief Dan McAteer said, per CBS. The two individuals, stationed at either end of the lake, entered the water in an attempt to help, "but they were quickly kind of overwhelmed themselves," McAteer said, per NBC10. He noted the lake is around 10 feet deep with "very thick" vegetation that is "deeply rooted but comes very close to the surface." That vegetation proved a challenge as authorities, alerted to the emergency at 8:42pm local time, launched a search for Rodriguez.

His body was finally located on Monday. "It is with great sadness that after just over 17 hours of tedious and demanding work by many first responders, Victor has been recovered," Pitman Mayor Michael Razze said in a statement. Students were not required to report to school on Monday. Exams scheduled for Monday and Tuesday were canceled. The school's graduation ceremony will take place Wednesday evening as planned, NBC10 reports, with a cap and gown marking a seat that should have been Rodriguez's. (More drowning stories.)

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