Sep 09, 2014 06:28 AM EDT
Towson Student Dies Following Drinking Episode
Baltimore County police have identified the Towson University student, who died over the weekend after being found unconscious in an off-campus apartment, as 18-year-old Julia Margaret Ratnaraj.
According to police report, emergency responders approached the apartment following a report of an overdose, Saturday night. Ratnaraj was taken to St. Joseph Medical Center, but was later pronounced dead.
Sheryl Wescott, a counselor at New Jersey's Washington Township High School, was heartbroken upon hearing the news of Ratnaraj's death. Wescott said that she was a gifted artist, a sweet young lady and an honor-roll student.
The first-year college student enrolled in advanced art classes and was interested in forensic science. She studied French in high school and was a member of the French club.
Wescott said that Ratnaraj made a difficult decision to attend a different college than her twin sister, who studies at Fordham University in New York.
"She applied to many schools, and Towson was her number one pick," Wescott said. "I think she was really just happy to be there. It was hard enough for them to decide to go to different colleges, let alone for this to happen," Washington Post reports.
Ratnaraj's three friends - two 19-year-olds and an 18-year-old - told police that the freshman from Sewell, N.J., had been drinking alcohol before reaching the apartment that night but they were not sure about the quantity. The deceased also frequently smoked tobacco from a hookah. The state medical examiner's office has not been able to ascertain the cause of her death.
According to a recent survey by the Maryland Collaborative to Reduce College Drinking and Related Problems, nearly 50 percent of Maryland college students were involved in binge drinking at least once during the previous month.
About two-third of college students drink alcohol at off-campus parties and one-fifth reported consumption during happy hours at off-campus bars.
University spokeswoman Gay Pinder said that drug and alcohol awareness education is part of the freshman orientation. Pinder said that the University expressed condolences to Ratnaraj's family and friends.
"We are deeply saddened that we have lost a member of our Towson University family," the university said in a statement. "Our thoughts and prayers are with Julia's family and friends at this incredibly difficult time. Out of respect for the family, we are not releasing any further information at this time," Courier Post Online reports.
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