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New details on NMU pool death

December 4, 2012
By JACKIE STARK - Journal Staff Writer ( , The Mining Journal

MARQUETTE - Northern Michigan University Public Safety officials are still trying to piece together the timeline of events that led to the drowning Friday evening of an NMU women's soccer player.

Arianna "Anna" Alioto, 18, drowned in the Physical Education Instructional Facility pool some time between 5 and 5:35 p.m., according to NMU Public Safety and Police Services Director Michael Bath, who offered new details on the incident during a press conference Monday morning.

However, many significant questions - such as how Alioto came to be alone in the pool area - were left unanswered.

Article Photos

A lifeguard keeps watch as people swim laps in the Northern Michigan University Physical Education Instructional Facility pool. NMU women's soccer player Arianna Alioto, 18, drowned in the pool Friday evening. She was spotted by another NMU student who was working out in the area overlooking the pool. (Journal photo by Matt Keiser)

Bath said Monday the investigation would take longer than usual, as many of the people being interviewed were still coping with the loss of a friend and teammate.

"We're going through a grieving process," Bath said. "This type of an investigation is going to take a little bit more time than normal because the individuals that we're interviewing, obviously, are dealing with the stress of the situation."

Police haven't said what happened in the minutes leading up to the death of Alioto, 18, who was red-shirted her freshman year on Northern's soccer team due to a knee injury.

Bath said the team was conducting a coach-called practice in the PEIF pool from 4 to 5 p.m. Friday. The pool was closed to the public during that time to allow the soccer team to use the pool exclusively. Alioto was a full participant in the practice, which took place in the water.

Bath said he was unsure of exactly when the team had left the pool area, but Alioto was spotted alone in the water at about 5:35 p.m. by another NMU student who was working out in an area overlooking the pool.

The student told PEIF staff there was a female in the pool. Staff pulled Alioto, unresponsive and still wearing her swim gear, out of the lap pool and began to administer CPR while someone called 911. EMS arrived, took over the lifesaving efforts, and Alioto was transferred to Marquette General Hospital, where she was pronounced dead.

NMU Communications and Marketing Director Cindy Paavola said no events were scheduled at the pool from 5 to 7 p.m. Friday, when it would open again for public use.

The pool stayed closed after the incident until Sunday, when it resumed its normal operating hours.

Paavola said no one had drowned in the PEIF pool since an elderly male drowned in 1999.

Bath said with a total of roughly 20 interviews, it would take some time to formulate the exact timeline and discover how Alioto came to be in the pool alone.

"We're still working through that, to find out the exact timeline as to when everyone was there and at what point everybody left," Bath said.

It is NMU's policy to have a lifeguard on duty anytime someone is in the pool area. NMU Athletic Director Forrest Karr said it was the university's head lifeguard who was at the pool during the workout.

"The lifeguard was a student, had been on our staff working for us for a couple years, actually, the head lifeguard and the lifeguard that trains other lifeguards," Karr said.

Bath offered no information on when the lifeguard left the pool and was unable to say if Alioto was still in the pool area when the lifeguard left.

According to the Columbia Daily Tribune, a newspaper in Alioto's hometown of Columbia, Mo., Alioto suffered from epilepsy and had a seizure midway through the second half of a postseason soccer game in 2010.

According to a soccer coach quoted in the article, Alioto's seizure was caused by forgotting to take her medication.

Bath said an investigation into the past medical history of Alioto was ongoing. He said there was no apparent trauma to her body after she was pulled from the water.

Results from an autopsy conducted by the Marquette County Medical Examiner's Office Monday morning will not be available for two to four weeks, Bath said.

The Marquette community was encouraged to wear purple today in honor of Alioto. Purple was her favorite color.

"This is a very difficult time on campus and a tragic, very tragic situation, with ripples all throughout the campus," NMU Interim President David Haynes said Monday morning. "Our condolences go out to the Alioto family as they grieve Anna's death."

Funeral arrangements are being handled by the Memorial Funeral Home and Cemetery of Columbia, Mo. Visitation will take place there from 4 to 7 p.m. Friday. A memorial service will take place at 10 a.m. Saturday at the First Christian Church of Columbia, Mo.

Jackie Stark can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242.



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