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Police rule Clarkson student’s death an accident


POTSDAM — The death of a 20-year-old Clarkson University student hit by a train early Sunday has been ruled an accident by Potsdam village police and St. Lawrence County Coroner June H. Wood.

Shanith A. Samarasekera, of Las Vegas, Nev., was standing on a railroad trestle when he was hit by a train and fell into the Raquette River.

Nobody was with him at the time, but a witness standing on Sandstone Drive saw the accident and called police at 1:39 a.m.

The call prompted a 10-hour search. Police used watercraft, divers and a state police helicopter, eventually recovering the body at 11:24 a.m. Sunday in about 12 feet of water.

The autopsy, performed Sunday night, confirmed that Mr. Samarasekera was struck by the train, although drowning was the official cause of death.

The reason why Mr. Samarasekera was standing on the trestle early Sunday is still unknown, according to Potsdam Police Chief Kevin A. Bates.

“We do not know that; that’s part of our investigation at this point,” he said.

Mr. Bates said investigators are sure the incident was an accident, and have ruled out suicide. The possible role of drugs and alcohol will not be known for at least four to six weeks, when toxicology reports come back and the autopsy report is finalized.

Mr. Samarasekera’s disappearance and death led to friends and family turning to social media to express worries and condolences.

“If anyone has seen my brother @Shanith since last night please get in touch with me! We are trying to find him. Thank you,” Rukesh Samarasekera, Shanith’s brother, posted Sunday on Twitter.

“Rest in Peace buddy, I’ll never be able to forget you and the impact you’ve had on me,” Clarkson student Bryan Malone tweeted Sunday afternoon.

Shanith Samarasekera was enrolled in Clarkson’s school of business, majoring in global supply chain management.

Johnson Newspapers writer Brian Kidwell contributed to this report.

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