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Death at Iowa Mennonite School ruled accidental

Fall from ladder happened in room that was supposed to be locked

Teresa Cardenas, 15, of Iowa City, died Friday, Dec. 1, 2017, at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City after falling off a ladder at an all-school social event at Iowa Mennonite School in Kalona, where she was in tenth grade. (submitted photo)
Teresa Cardenas, 15, of Iowa City, died Friday, Dec. 1, 2017, at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City after falling off a ladder at an all-school social event at Iowa Mennonite School in Kalona, where she was in tenth grade. (submitted photo)

The December death of an Iowa City teen at Iowa Mennonite School, in Kalona, has been ruled accidental.

Teresa Cardenas, 15, fell from the top of a 20-foot ladder bolted to the wall in the control room of the school auditorium, said Sgt. Randy Lamm, a detective with the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office. She died from blunt force trauma to the head and neck, according to the Johnson County Medical Examiner.

“She was almost at the very top of the ladder when she fell,” Lamm said.

Cardenas was attending an all-school social at IMS Dec. 1 when the accident happened.

The IMS calendar for that night listed an “All-school sibling family YCO/Yearbook Party.” The school has a tradition of grouping seniors with younger students in “sibling families” to give students an opportunity to interact with students in other grades. Gloria Villatoro, Cardenas’s aunt, told The Gazette in December the students had pizza and were playing games.

Cardenas and some other students had gone into the auditorium control room and were trying to climb up into a second level of the auditorium, Lamm said.

“They weren’t supposed to be where they were,” he said. “They had derailed the plan and went into a room that was supposed to be locked.”

Cardenas was the only student on the ladder at the time and no one else was injured. No alcohol was involved, Lamm said.

Cardenas was transported to University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, in Iowa City, where she died.

Villatoro told The Gazette Cardenas was an outgoing student who played soccer and basketball, sang in the school choir, wrote poetry and enjoyed spending time with friends and family.

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Cardenas, a sophomore, started attending IMS in ninth grade, Villatoro said. Several members of their extended family go to the private school with 83 students in grades 9 through 12, she said.

Cardenas’s funeral was held Dec. 6 at the school.

l Comments: (319) 339-3157; erin.jordan@thegazette.com

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