Student from Erial dies from injuries after fall at Cornell

Posted: September 15, 2007

A Cornell University student from Camden County died Thursday night at a Syracuse, N.Y., hospital after plunging into a campus gorge.

Keith O'Donnell of Erial tumbled 30 feet down one of the two spectacular chasms that cleave Cornell's campus in Ithaca, N.Y.

O'Donnell, 23, a junior at Cornell's School of Hotel Administration, said goodnight to his girlfriend about 1:30 a.m. last Saturday and was walking back to his dorm room when he fell, said his aunt Jennifer O'Donnell.

A Cornell spokesman said the university "does a lot of education with students about gorge safety."

Accidents still occur. Over the last 10 years, five other students have died in accidental falls into the gorges, said Blaine P. Friedlander, a university spokesman.

Keith O'Donnell was discovered at 2 a.m. in the Cascadilla Gorge and taken by helicopter to the State University of New York Upstate Medical University trauma center in Syracuse, where he was treated for severe head injuries and a punctured lung, his aunt said.

Ithaca police said an investigation was continuing.

O'Donnell was a star wrestler in his freshman year at Highland Regional High School in Blackwood. He then won a scholarship to the Peddie School in Hightstown, N.J., where he continued to be a standout grappler. He wrestled for Cornell his first two years in the 174-pound weight class, according to a university Web site.

Funeral arrangements were pending.

Memorial Fund

A fund has been set up by the O'Donnell family to return Keith O'Donnell's body to New Jersey and provide for a scholarship in his name. Donations may be made to the Keith O'Donnell Memorial Fund, c/o Commerce Bank, 601 College Dr., Blackwood, N.J. 08012.

Contact staff writer Sam Wood at 856-779-3838 or

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