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Body of missing student found in waters off Costa Rica

By Staff | Jan 7, 2011

The body of a Cape Coral man who went missing during a study trip to Costa Rica through his university was located Friday.
Erik L. Downes, 20, a junior at Oglethorpe University, was found in the waters off of Playa Pinuelas, Costa Rica. He was reported missing Tuesday evening after he was caught in a riptide off of Playa Dominical on the Pacific Coast.
“Erik was a shining star with unlimited potential and a kind heart,” Lawrence M. Schall, president of Oglethorpe University, said in a prepared statement. “This is a great loss to our community. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family.”
He is survived by his mother, Myrna Litner of Cape Coral.
The family could not be reached for comment Friday.
No funeral service information was immediately available.
Oglethorpe students and faculty members were in Costa Rica for a short-term ecological study trip. He and others were swimming when they were caught in the riptide. Officials reported that no one else was injured.
The search was led by the Costa Rican Coast Guard, with assistance from the American Red Cross and numerous volunteers, officials reported.
Downes was a pre-med major and was an active member of the community. He served as vice president of the Student Government Association and led the Student Senate. He also worked as a resident assistant and volunteered with the university’s Center for Civic Engagement service projects.
In 2008, Downes graduated from Canterbury School in Fort Myers.
Chris Fusco, the director of development, said Downes was “very involved” while attending Canterbury. He was in the Science National Honor Society and the Social Science and History National Honor Society, was a member of the Mock Trial team and was a senior representative to the alumni board.
He also was a peer mentor and had 500-plus hours of community services.
According to university officials, counseling services would be provided to Oglethorpe students as they return to campus from winter break on Sunday. Oglethorpe University is located in Atlanta, Ga.