Incoming Cornell freshman drowns in gorges before start of semester

Winston Perez-Ventura’s acceptance to Cornell video went viral last year

On Saturday, Winston Perez-Ventura, a student in the pre-freshman summer program from the Bronx went swimming in the gorges of Ithaca and failed to resurface.

After hours of searching, a diving team pulled his body from the Fall Creek Gorge around 7:20 p.m. This event is truly devastating for friends and family of Winston, as well as the greater Cornell community. The family is still mourning and is not ready for approaches from the media, but it appears that Perez-Ventura was still learning how to swim.

Winston Perez-Ventura (Sammy) posted the following video last year, which went viral after he learned that he would be a part of Cornell University’s freshman class the following school year. He was accepted into the College of Architecture, Art, and Planning for a B.Arch.

Perez-Ventura and his mother immigrated to New York from the Dominican Republic when he was nine. A quote from the New York Daily News on his aspirations reads:

“Cornell was always his dream from the very first day I met him,” said Danielle Leach, Perez-Ventura’s high school homeroom teacher and college counselor. “He handed me a little piece of paper that said, ‘Cornell is my first choice and I want to study architecture.’”

A current student at Cornell, Yunyun Wang shared a thoughtful post on Facebook in response to the news of this incident.

Several incoming classmates have posted and commented about their concern and condolences online, hoping to pay tribute to Winston. Certainly this is a difficult time for many.

Additionally, Ventura-Perez’s college counselor from high school posted the following online:

Loved ones of Ventura-Perez have created a GoFundMe page where people can donate funds for funeral expenses. Since its creation yesterday, it has already surpassed the $20k goal.

This accident puts a somber mood to the start of the school year. It could have happened to any of the dozens of people who choose to swim in the gorges and should serve as a reminder to be cautious and pay attention to signage around local bodies of water.

Acting Chief of Ithaca Police Pete Tyler stated: “The Ithaca gorges are so, so beautiful but they can be very dangerous if folks don’t obey the posted signs. I encourage everyone to please, please follow the posted signs on the gorge trails, especially those that prohibit trespassing and swimming.”

“The signs are in place for no other reason than to keep folks safe when they enter our gorges.”

Support services are available to all members of the Cornell community. Students may consult with counselors from Gannett Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) by calling 607-255-5155. Students may speak with a peer counselor by calling EARS at 607-255-3277.