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Police rule Clarkson student’s death an accident

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POTSDAM — The death of a 20-year-old Clarkson University student hit by a train early Sunday has been ruled an accident by St. Lawrence County Coroner June H. Wood.

Shanith A. Samarasekera, of Las Vegas, Nev., was standing on a railroad trestle when he was hit by a train and fell into the Racquette River.

Nobody was with him at the time, but a witness standing on Sandstone Drive saw the accident and called police at 1:39 a.m.

The call prompted a 10-hour search. Police used watercraft, divers and a state police helicopter, eventually recovering the body at 11:24 a.m. Sunday in about 12 feet of water.

The autopsy, performed Sunday night, confirmed that Mr. Samarasekera was struck by the train, although drowning was the official cause of death.

The reason why Mr. Samarasekera was standing on the trestle late Saturday night is still unknown, according to Potsdam Police Chief Kevin A. Bates.

“We do not know that; that’s part of our investigation at this point,” he said.

Mr. Bates said investigators are sure the incident was an accident and have ruled out suicide. The autopsy report will not be finalized for at least four to six weeks when toxicology reports are completed.

Mr. Samarasekera’s disappearance and death led to friends and family turning to social media to express worries and condolences.

“If anyone has seen my brother @Shanith since last night please get in touch with me! We are trying to find him. Thank you,” Rukesh Samarasekera, Shanith’s brother, posted on Twitter Sunday.

“Rest in Peace buddy, I’ll never be able to forget you and the impact you’ve had on me,” Clarkson student Bryan Malone tweeted Sunday afternoon.

Neither Rukesh Samarasekera nor Mr. Malone could be reached for further comment.

Shanith Samarasekera was enrolled in the Clarkson’s school of business, where he majored in global supply chain management.

Staff writer Brian Kidwell contributed to this report.

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