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Indian American Parents Sue University of Illinois for Negligence in Searching for Their Freshman Son Found Dead

Indian American Parents Sue University of Illinois for Negligence in Searching for Their Freshman Son Found Dead

  • Akul Dhawan, 18, was found dead by an university employee on the porch of a building, almost nine hours after his friend reported him missing.

Parents of Akul Dhawan, the Indian American teen who was found dead near the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign where he was a student, are seeking answers. Ish and Ritu Dhawan have filed a complaint alleging that the university police officers were negligent while searching for their son after he went missing. 

 The 18-year-old was found dead by a university employee on the porch of a building on Jan. 21, almost nine hours after his friend reported him missing. 

Originally from San Mateo, California, Akul Dhawan was a freshman majoring in electrical engineering. His father told The News-Gazette that his son’s “passion for robotics was what drove him to enroll in the University of Illinois’ Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.” His parents wanted him to go to school closer to home. 

The Dhawans told The News-Gazette that location-tracking data on their 18-year-old son’s phone last showed he was outside Canopy Club in Urbana around midnight on Jan. 20 before the device ran out of battery. “We really need answers,” Ritu Dhawan told the publication.

Father Ish Dhawan said it was “bizarre that a kid is never found who was just less than a block, like one minute away, sitting there, dead, frozen to death.” He said he visualizes “every minute that my son froze to death on a university campus.” For mother Is Dhawan, the loss of their son will be a “long-life pain,” that they have to “live” their whole life. “I feel like part of my soul has been taken out.”

The parents said their son was “an organized, methodical and talented young man 

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who was fascinated with technology.” He “always had to have the new iPhone whenever Apple released a new model because he knew all about its changes,” his father told The News-Gazette. His uncle, Rishab Mehandru, told the publication that his nephew was “always the smartest one in the room and would win all the games he played with his family.”

Meanwhile, an autopsy released by the Champaign County Coroner’s Office revealed that although there was no evidence of significant trauma, there was evidence of hypothermic skin changes. According to a WCIA report, the night when Akul Dhawan was reported missing, the temperature at one point was just 1° Fahrenheit. “The temperature had only improved marginally to 8° when he was found dead at 11:08 a.m. The windchill temperature ranged between -20° and -14° between midnight and 10 a.m.,” the report added. 

University spokeswoman Robin Kaler told The News-Gazette that “police checked the area where the student was last seen, the student’s residence hall and the likely path between the two locations, including the main Quad and streets.” 

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