polar vortex

Second University Student Found Dead During Polar Vortex

Student walking outside during winter.
Photo: Mila Araujo/Getty Images/EyeEm

A freshman at the University of Vermont was found dead in sub-zero temperatures over the weekend, in what authorities believe is the second Polar Vortex–related death of a student.

On Saturday morning, police discovered the body of a college-aged man in the parking behind a business in Burlington, who they later identified as Connor Gage, 19, a University of Vermont freshman studying neuroscience. While police are still investigating the official cause of death, they said in a news release on Saturday that “exposure to cold” and “inadequate” clothing contributed to Gage’s passing. The morning that the student’s body was found, temperatures hovered between negative one and negative four degrees Fahrenheit.

During last week’s Polar Vortex, when temperatures dipped lower than those in Antartica in some parts of the Midwest, at least 21 people died; of that number, Gage is believed to be second of two students. Last Wednesday, Gerald Belz, an 18-year-old pre-med student at the University of Iowa, was pronounced dead last Wednesday after being found consciousness outside his dorm in sub-zero temperatures. While local police are also still investigating Belz’s specific cause of death, there was a wind chill of -51 degrees Fahrenheit when Belz’s body was found.

Following Saturday’s reports of a student death, the vice provost for student affairs identified Gage in a letter to the University of Vermont community, in which she extended the university’s “deepest condolences to Connor’s family.”

“Our sincere thoughts of care and sympathy are also extended to his friends, classmates, and to faculty and staff who were close to him,” Annie Stevens continued, per the Burlington Free Press. “When any member of our community passes away, we are bound to feel a profound sense of loss, and reactions are felt in a variety of ways. During this time, we highly encourage you to reach out to your primary support system as a source of care and connection.”

While logistics have not yet been determined, the Free Press reports that a campus gathering and/or service is being planned.

Second Student Found Dead Outside During Polar Vortex