New York college student dies after being found unconscious outside in extreme cold: Police

ABC News/Will McDuffie and Meredith Deliso
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ABC News

Authorities are investigating after an upstate New York college student died after spending hours off-campus in subzero temperatures, police said.

SUNY Oneonta student Tyler Lopresti-Castro, 20, was discovered by two Oneonta transit employees shortly before 7 a.m. Thursday lying unconscious on the pavement near a city bus garage, officials said.

The drivers contacted the city’s police and fire departments. When emergency workers arrived, they “did every possible thing they could do to resuscitate him,” Otsego County Coroner Terry Knapp told ABC News.

Lopresti-Castro, who was initially identified by his SUNY Oneonta ID, was transported to a local hospital where he died, authorities said.

The student, who was only wearing a sweatshirt and jeans, was apparently suffering from “extended exposure to extremely cold, subzero temperatures,” Oneonta Police Chief Christopher Witzenburg said during a press briefing Friday.

Witzenburg characterized the case at this time as a “cold weather-related incident.”

The temperature that morning was 12 below zero, according to Knapp.

The cause and manner of death are currently under investigation. An autopsy is expected to be completed Friday, officials said. At this point, police said there is “no indication of criminality.”

SUNY Oneonta said it is fully cooperating with local authorities in the investigation.

“This is a very sad time for SUNY Oneonta,” the university said in a statement to ABC News. “Our campus community is mourning the loss of one of our own, and we are focused on providing support to the student’s family and friends. Our hearts go out to them, and we are providing whatever assistance we can to help them during this difficult time.”

Lopresti-Castro, who lived off-campus, was found about 3.5 miles from the university, Witzenburg said.

Police are currently trying to fill in a two-hour gap in their timeline of his whereabouts.

Lopresti-Castro was last seen around midnight Thursday, police said, though they did not provide any further details on where. Garage surveillance video reviewed by detectives showed him emerging from a wooded area behind the garage around 2:15 a.m., said police, who believe he may have walked through deep snow and crossed a drainage creek before emerging onto the city property.

“Between midnight and 2:15 a.m. we really don’t know where he was, so we’re asking that the public contact the Oneonta Police Department with any information that they may be able to provide to detectives and try to fill that time gap,” Witzenburg said.

When asked by a reporter about the potential involvement of fraternity activity at the university, where it is currently rush week, Witzenburg called it “speculation.”

“I don’t at this point have any information to believe that there was fraternity involvement, but it’s something we’re open to if we have more information,” Witzenburg said. ‘We can’t speculate at this time.”

Lisa Miller, a SUNY Oneonta spokeswoman, told ABC News that the school has received no evidence that the death was fraternity-related, but will await the results of the police investigation.

She said the school is not currently investigating any students.

Lopresti-Castro graduated from Columbia High in East Greenbush, New York, where he was involved in athletics, including track and field. The school’s athletic program mourned his loss in a social media post Saturday, saying he was a “beloved son, friend, and teammate to so many in our community.”

“Once a Blue Devil Always a Blue Devil,” the program said in an earlier post.

Lopresti-Castro went by Tlo, a nickname that stuck from youth football, his friends told ABC News. The group of eight close-knit, childhood friends jokingly called themselves the “brother bears” growing up — another nickname that stuck, they said.

“We’ve done everything together for years,” his friends — Jayden Torelli, Dante Albanese, Nick Iula, Michael Iula, Dustin Chambers, Adam Dwileski and Tyler Price — said in a joint statement to ABC News. “There’s nobody that can bring a more positive attitude to a situation than Tyler.”

Torelli has since set up a GoFundMe with the others to help Lopresti-Castro’s mother and stepfather at this time.

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