by Laura Weick and Edhaya Thennarasu
An international graduate student died after an incident at one of the pools inside the University of Rhode Island’s Tootell Aquatic Center last Sunday afternoon.
The student was identified as Suhail Habeeb, a graduate physics student from New Delhi, India. According to a statement from URI, campus recreation staff, campus emergency services and campus police arrived at the scene of the incident at 4:30 p.m., where lifeguards were found performing CPR on Habeeb. The URI press release said that all three lifeguards on duty were students certified by the American Red Cross.
One witness at the pool was Rob Levine, a personal injury lawyer. Levine told the Providence Journal that Habeeb was lying at the bottom of the lap pool, and was in cardiac arrest when he was pulled out of the pool. Habeeb was brought to South County Hospital after the incident and was pronounced dead shortly after. The University could not release any more details about Habeeb’s death at this time.
According to the University’s Director of Communications and Marketing, Linda Acciardo, the case is still being investigated by police. Campus police said that an autopsy report is pending.
“The University extends its deepest condolences to Habeeb’s family, friends and colleagues,” the University of Rhode Island said in a public statement. “He had been enrolled at the University since fall 2016. In support of our students across the campus, staff are available this week and throughout the semester.”
The University included a list of resources for students alongside the message.
Many URI community members fondly remembered Habeeb as a kind and friendly person.
“He was very polite, always willing to chat about life and physics,” Nicholas Bianchi, a graduate physics student and Habeeb’s colleague said. “We always helped each other out on research problems if we had any. He was just an overall nice guy. It was nice just to talk to him.”
Some of Habeeb’s friends recalled that he was going to get married the next time he returned to India. They found it very difficult to fathom his death.
“He was one of the nicest people I’ve ever met on campus,” Muhammad Usman, a sophomore said. “He was like 32/33 years old and I’m not even 21 yet. I never felt I was talking to someone older than me. He was my friend. Whatever problems he had, he would always talk to me.”
On Wednesday afternoon, a Janazah prayer was held for Habeeb at the Masjid Al-Islam mosque in Smithfield. He was buried shortly after at the Islamic Cemetery at the Little Greenville Cemetery. A memorial service will be held at the Muslim Community Center of Kingston (Masjid Alhoda) on Friday at 3 p.m.
This is the second student death to occur at the University this month.