Eckerd College student, Jessica Gartenberg, dies while paddleboarding

12:23 AM, Aug 24, 2013   |    comments
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Screenshot of a Facebook photo of Jessica Gartenberg, an 18-year-old Eckerd College student who lost her life while paddleboarding on August 23, 2013. 10 news has blurred the faces of the others in the photo.



St. Petersburg, Florida -- An 18-year-old Eckerd College student drowned Friday while paddleboarding with two others behind the university's campus. 

The student has been identified as 18-year-old Jessica Gartenberg, According to her Facebook page, Jessica was attending Eckerd as a freshman after graduating from a Saint Louis, MO high school earlier this year. 

"She lived a couple doors down from me and she was going to be in marine science with me," said fellow student Erin McGrath.

Pinellas County authorities say Jessica and her friends were in the intracoastal waterway between the campus and Maximo Park when she suddenly fell into the water.

"Instead of going back to the board she turned and started heading towards the dock," said Lt. Joel Granata of St. Petersburg Fire & Rescue.

They pulled Jessica from the water and called for help around 2:30 p.m. Officials took her to Bayfront Medical Center where she later was pronounced dead.

A St. Petersburg Police report says Jessica was not wearing a life vest at the time, and that her body showed no signs of injury. 

"They're not required to wear a floatation device if they pass a swim test," said Lt. Garnata. According to those who knew her, Jessica took the swim test two days after arriving on campus two weeks ago.

Even though Jessica was new to this school, her death has sent shockwaves across the campus of just 1,800 students.

"We will be providing around the clock counseling and support for our students, or faculty and our staff and our thoughts and prayers are with Jessica's family," said Eckerd College spokesperson, Suzan Harrison.

The Medical Examiner's Office will make a final determination as to the cause of death, but at this time it still appears to be the result of an accidental drowning.

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