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Indian-American parents accuse university of negligence after teen son’s death

New York, Jan 27 (IANS) Parents of an Indian-American teen, who was found dead last weekend with signs of hypothermia, have filed a complaint alleging negligence by the police department of the university where the son studied.

Akul B. Dhawan, an 18-year-old studying electrical engineering at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, was reported missing last Saturday just before 1:30 a.m. by his friend, the USA Today reported.

According to the University of Illinois Police, he was found nearly 10 hours later on the back porch of a building near the university campus in west Urbana, which experienced brutal cold and freezing temperatures dipping between -20 to -30 degrees.

Ish and Ritu Dhawan said on Wednesday that their son was found just 400 feet from where he was reported missing based on location-tracking data on their son’s phone

Accusing the university’s police department of negligence, they filed a complaint against them over how the search was handled, The Today reported, citing The News-Gazette.

“This is bizarre, that a kid is never found who was just less than a block, like one minute away, sitting there, dead, frozen to death. Imagine as a dad and mom what’s going through in our mind. I visualise his every minute that my son froze to death in a university campus,” Ish Dhawan told The Gazette.

“We really need answers,” his mother said.

“What is the proof that they totally searched in this area, around the area they’re talking (about), this half-block? My kid would have been found.”

Dhawan came to the University of Illinois’ Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering to study robotics despite his parent’s opposition, who wanted him to study closer to home in California.

The exact cause of Akul’s death is under investigation by the campus police, the Illinois State Police and the Champaign County Coroner’s Office.

Preliminary investigations by the University police suggest that “there was no foul play involved, and the death is initially believed to be accidental”.

According to the coroner’s office, preliminary findings of an autopsy performed on Tuesday showed signs of hypothermia.

“The preliminary findings showed no evidence of significant trauma. There was evidence of hypothermic skin changes. The final autopsy report is pending toxicology studies,” the Champaign County Coroner said in a news statement.

University of Illinois Police have requested anyone with information on the incident to contact the department.

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