Education

Report: University of Iowa student died of hypothermia, had THC in system

'Gerald will be fondly remembered and terribly missed'

Gerald Belz (Supplied photo)
Gerald Belz (Supplied photo)

IOWA CITY — A University of Iowa first-year student who died during January’s polar vortex had hypothermia and evidence of THC in his system, according to a UI police update Friday afternoon.

Gerald Belz, an 18-year-old Cedar Rapids Kennedy High School graduate, was found unresponsive behind Halsey Hall on the UI campus at 2:48 a.m. Jan. 30 — when early morning temperatures broke record lows, hitting 25 below zero.

According to the university, a Johnson County Medical Examiner report indicates Belz died of hypothermia because of cold exposure and had evidence in his system of recent use of THC — a compound that is the main active ingredient in marijuana.

The medical examiner ruled Belz’s death was an “accident,” according to UI police.

Upon discovering Belz early Jan. 30, authorities rushed him to the UI Hospitals and Clinics, where he died just after 4:30 a.m. The medical examiner report will contribute to the UI police investigation of the death, according to a university news release.

“Our thoughts remain with the Belz family and friends,” according to a statement from the UI Department of Public Safety.

Although Belz was only in the second semester of his first year on the UI campus, he had accrued enough credits to be considered a sophomore. He was majoring in pre-medicine, and friends and family members remember him as compassionate, smart and responsible.

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His father, Michael Belz, told The Gazette he hopes his son is remembered for his deep compassion for others.

“That compassion, it’s part of the reason why he decided to study (in) the medical field,” Michael Belz told The Gazette last month. “He has experienced the frustration of having a loved one with medical issues that have been difficult to be diagnosed or resolved. He was wanting to be a neurosurgeon or cardiologist, that was what his ultimate dream was to be. He wanted to help people.”

The Belz family on Friday, through a UI spokeswoman, released the following statement:

“The family and friends of Gerald Belz would like to sincerely thank everyone who has kept us and Gerald in their thoughts and prayers. The outpouring of love and support has been tremendous during this time of indescribable grief. Now the family, and on behalf of those close to us, respectfully request privacy as we continue to mourn our loss. Gerald will be fondly remembered and terribly missed by those who knew him.”

In a UI statement, officials acknowledged the challenge of losing a fellow student.

“We encourage our students and staff members to reach out if they are in need of support.”

Resources can be found on the UI safety and support website or by contacting one of these offices:

• University Counseling Services: 319-335-7294 or http://bit.ly/1PbwPol to schedule an appointment

• Johnson County Crisis Center: 319-351-0140

l Comments: (319) 339-3158; vanessa.miller@thegazette.com

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