Police finish LU drowning probe

From Appleton Post-Crescent

By Mike Woods
Post-Crescent staff writer
APPLETON – The death of Lawrence University student Kwabena Buanya may remain a mystery as an Appleton Police Department report released Thursday shed no light on why he drowned.

Toxicology tests on Buanya were negative, according to Outagamie County Coroner Ruth Wulgaert, who ruled the Sept. 8 death accidental due to drowning.

The APD considers the matter closed.

Buanya’s mother, Elizabeth Frimpong of Baltimore, said late Thursday that her attorney, Donna Kuchler of Waukesha, just received a copy of the police report Thursday and put it in the mail.

Frimpong said she has not received the report and therefore could not comment on it.

Buanya’s family hired a private detective, Ray Vander Perren of Green Bay, in September to investigate the death.

Lawrence responded to the report with a press release.

“In conducting their investigation, the Appleton Police Department interviewed the students and university staff present at the time of the accident,” the release read.

“Their final report states that there were no suspicious circumstances that would lead anyone to believe that anything other than an accidental drowning occurred.

“The university has every confidence in the scope and thoroughness of the investigation … and believes that what facts there are to be known concerning this tragic accident have been fully uncovered by that investigation.”

A university official said the school would have no more comment.

Buanya, a 21-year-old sophomore on the Lawrence men’s soccer team, drowned at the Buchanan Kiewit Center while taking part in a supervised team practice.

According to the police report, 22 members of the soccer team were present for team-building exercises under the direction of assistant coach Kristin Ruhsam.

Lawrence provost David Burrows told The Post-Crescent in a Sept. 28 letter that, “University procedures regarding recreations use of the pool require the presence of a qualified supervisor. A qualified supervisor is one who maintains current American Red Cross certification in Lifeguarding, as well as certification in CPR for the Professional Rescuer, AED and First Aid.”

A spokesman from the American Red Cross-Outagamie Chapter said Thursday that Ruhsam most recently had been certified on June 8. Certifications are good for three years.

Ruhsam and several members of the soccer team acknowledged Buanya was not a good swimmer, the police report states.

Ruhsam told an officer the session began with the team doing wall pull-ups in the 16-foot end of the pool. In this exercise, team members are in the pool and hang onto the edge. Ruhsam said Buanya and another team member did not take part, though the officer said through subsequent interviews with team members Buanya was in the pool.

Three more drills followed in the deep end of the pool, and Buanya did not participate in any of them, the report states.

When the drills ended, the report states, the group exited the deep end and went approximately 125 feet to the shallow end, which was about 3 feet deep.

Ruhsam told an officer she saw Buanya on the deck at that end of the pool.

Ruhsam told police Buanya could have been unaccounted for about 15 minutes.

Richard Amankwah, a senior on the soccer team – and, like Buanya, a native of Ghana – also told an officer he saw Buanya standing on the side of the pool at the shallow end.

The group was to participate in “chicken fights,” in which one team member is on the shoulders of a teammate, aiming to push another team member off the shoulders of another teammate. Ruhsam said about eight team members were on the pool deck, and the rest were in the pool.

At some point, Amankwah told the officer, he turned to Buanya to ask if he was going to participate in the “chicken fights” but could not see him.

No one saw Buanya walk away, according to the report.

Amankwah thought Buanya might have gone into the bathroom. He then walked around the side of the pool, past the bathrooms, to see if Buanya went into the diving pool.

Amankwah said that as he went up to the diving pool, he saw a shadow at the bottom, and ran to tell Ruhsam he thought Buanya was at the bottom of the pool.

The report stated team member John Dunbar jumped out of the shallow end, ran to the deep in, dove in and pulled Buanya out. Dunbar said he called 911, and he and Ruhsam began CPR until fire department personnel arrived. The report said Buanya was wearing swimming goggles.