Provided by Ithaca Fire Department

ITHACA, N.Y. — The swimmer who drowned Saturday in Fall Creek was an incoming freshman to Cornell, the university has confirmed.

After a five-hour search Saturday, New York State Police divers recovered the body of Winston Perez Ventura, who went swimming and did not resurface, police said.

Perez Ventura planned to study architecture. Back in December, the story of his acceptance to the Ivy League school went viral.

Winston was in Ithaca with fellow incoming students taking part in the on-campus pre-Freshman Summer Program, Ryan Lombardi, vice president for student and campus life said in an email to the campus community late Saturday.

“As a high school student, Winston participated in The Fellowship Initiative, an enrichment program for young men of color. He was an exceptional person who would have contributed greatly to our university community,” Lombardi said.

Perez Ventura would have started classes in two weeks.

Related: Update: Body recovered in Ithaca Falls after five-hour search

ABC News featured a story on Perez Ventura in December when he was accepted to the Cornell University College of Architecture, Art, and Planning. Perez Ventura was born in the Dominican Republic and came to the U.S. when he was 9 after his mother had gotten established first, according to the news report. His family is from the Bronx, New York.

Perez Ventura was part of Democracy Prep Harlem High School’s first freshman class. In the ABC News video, friends and family crowded around a computer in December as Perez Ventura opened his email to see whether he was accepted to Cornell University. They room erupts in cheers when he says, “Yes.” The video of his acceptance went viral.

YouTube video

At about 2:33 p.m. Saturday, Ithaca and Cornell University police officers and Ithaca firefighters responded to a report of a person who had entered the gorge to swim and had not resurfaced.

New York State Police also deployed a helicopter and a dive team to assist in the search.

Perez Ventura was recovered around 7:20 p.m. Police said no foul play is suspected.

In a news release, Acting Chief Pete Tyler urged people to be safe and obey posted signs in the gorges.

“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.”

Several hours before the incident, the Ithaca Fire Department shared a safety message about the gorges, reminding people that there are “underwater currents, loose shale, and other dangers” that can make the gorges and other waterways dangerous.

Support services are available for members of the Cornell community, Lombardi said.

“Please join me in keeping Winston and his family and friends in our thoughts as we process the enormity of this loss. Please also be sure to take care of yourselves and those around you over the coming days, and to seek support as necessary,” Lombardi said.

There will be a community support meeting at 11 a.m. Sunday in the Cook House dining room on West Campus.

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.

Employees may call the Faculty Staff Assistance Program at 607-255-2673. The Ithaca-based Crisisline is available at 607-272-1616. For additional resources visit

Featured image provided by Ithaca Fire Department.

Kelsey O'Connor is the managing editor for the Ithaca Voice. Questions? Story tips? Contact her at and follow her on Twitter @bykelseyoconnor.