Northern New York Newspapers
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Sun., Oct. 4
Serving the community of Ogdensburg, New York
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Clarkson student struck by train had alcohol, pot in system, report shows


POTSDAM — A Clarkson University senior had alcohol and marijuana in his system when he was struck by a train and drowned in the Raquette River last fall, according to toxicology results made public Friday.

Tests showed Shanith A. Samarasekera, 20, of Las Vegas, Nev., had a blood alcohol content of 0.27 percent when he fell off a railway trestle on Oct. 21, Potsdam Police Chief Kevin A. Bates said.

That would be more than three times the state’s legal limit of 0.08 percent BAC for operating a motor vehicle — except that Mr. Samarasekera wasn’t driving, nor was he legally of age to consume alcohol in New York, where the minimum age to drink is 21.

“We know where he got the alcohol, but since it’s still an active investigation I’m not going to release any information about that at this time,” Chief Bates said.

Tests also showed Mr. Samarasekera had trace amounts of marijuana in his system, but “we have no idea where he got that,” the chief added.

No one was with Mr. Samarasekeraon the trestle in the early hours of that Sunday morning, but a witness standing on Sandstone Drive saw the accident and called police at 1:39 a.m.

A 10-hour search followed, in which watercraft, divers and a state police helicopter were brought in to find the missing man, eventually recovering his body at 11:24 a.m. in about 12 feet of water.

An autopsy performed that night confirmed that Mr. Samarasekera was struck by the train, although drowning was the official cause of death, which was ruled accidental.

According to the final report received by police on Wednesday, Mr. Samarasekera’s death was “caused by asphyxiation due to cold water drowning.”

Chief Bates said he waited until Friday to release the test results so that he could notify Mr. Samarasekera’s family before they became public.

Mr. Samarasekera was enrolled in Clarkson’s Snell School of Business, where he majored in global supply chain management.

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