Crew Club shared safety concerns with Iowa State in February 2020


A search and rescue took place at Little Wall Lake in Hamilton County, where an Iowa State Crew Club boat capsized March 28. Three students were rescued, and two students died.

Kylee Haueter

USRowing will be conducting a safety review regarding the boating accident that occurred March 28 and involved members of the Iowa State Crew Club.

This is part of the overall review the university is conducting of the sport club policies and procedures.

They are also working with the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Department and Iowa Department of Natural Resources in their investigations of the accident at Little Wall Lake that claimed the lives of Yaakov Ben-David, a sophomore in accounting, and Derek Nanni, a freshman in chemistry. 

On the morning of March 28, their boat capsized during their scheduled practice. Three other unnamed students were rescued with the help of residents that live on the lake. 

In a press release from Iowa State University, it is stated that members of the Crew Club brought forth safety concerns. A letter to Recreational Services from the president of the club at that time stated that, “As our club stands, it wouldn’t take much for someone to get seriously hurt.”

It was dated Feb. 10, 2020, over one year before the fatal accident. 

The letter also detailed three steps that should be taken to help increase safety for students in the club.

“A.) A dock (to prevent hypothermia or slipping on rocks as these can occur and has occurred when wet docking); 

B.) A launch/coach boat equipped with life jackets (to allow us to be properly coached on the water and have a safety net if a boat would capsize or other emergency would happen on the water);

C.) A mandatory swim test (to prevent weak swimmers from putting themselves in danger if boat capsizes.)”

The swim competency test was implemented by the club and they began raising money for the dock. They raised $19,500 of their $25,000 goal, according to the release. It also stated that to the university’s knowledge, no launch or coach boat was acquired. 

The letter said requests A and B were included in their proposed budget for the 2020-2021 school year and that “hopefully these requests will be accepted.”

“In the current student organization structure, student organization sport clubs have three ways to obtain resources: student government appropriations, club dues and fundraising and gifts. Several years ago, student government largely stopped funding capital projects for most student organizations, which would include items like docks and boats. Meaning that student organizations, like the Crew Club must rely on fundraising or membership dues to fund capital projects,” Iowa State’s release said. 

“In general, the university’s 55 student organization sport clubs have great autonomy in their operations. The university’s review will include analyzing whether this level of autonomy is appropriate in the context of sport club activities, whether the nature of the relationship fosters the correct level of support and oversight between the sport clubs and the university, whether the university adequately responded to the safety concerns raised by the Crew Club president and other issues identified through the review,” it said.

“The structural review will not only include the Crew Club, but all other student organization sport clubs. As an immediate step the university will create the position of Sport Club Safety Officer, which will be housed in the Office of Risk Management,” it said. 

The club has decided it will not practice or compete until the review is completed and is working with Iowa State and USRowing to conduct the review. 

“University leaders recognize there are many questions, and are committed to a comprehensive and thorough review and implementing the actions identified in the review,” the release said. “The university community again conveys its deep sorrow and condolences to the family, friends and loved ones of Yaakov Ben-David and Derek Nanni who lost their lives in the accident, and its continuing support for the other students of the Crew Club at Iowa State.”