WEST LAFAYETTE - A body found Monday (March 19) on the Purdue campus has been identified
as that of missing university freshman Wade Steffey, according to
university officials and the Tippecanoe County Coroner's Office.
Purdue spokesperson Jeanne Norberg said Tuesday (March 20) that Steffey,
who hadn't been seen since Jan. 13, was electrocuted. His body was found
around noon Monday (March 19) in a high-voltage utility room in Owen
Hall by a university physical facilities employee who was called to
check on a noise coming from the locked room.
"Wade apparently gained access, and, in trying to find his way around
the room, was accidentally electrocuted," Deputy Coroner Martin Avolt
said. "Because of the voltage involved, he would have been killed
Norberg said the utility room, roughly the size of a one-car garage,
houses three electrical transformers connected by high-voltage wires.
Steffey's body was found behind one of the transformers, she said. The
utility room has both an interior and exterior door.
When the utility worker was called to check the room on Monday (March
19), she entered using the interior door, which had been locked. During
the course of their investigation, police found the outside door was
unlocked. Police removed the lock to determine if it had been tampered
with or faulty and padlocked the door for safety.
"The location of Wade's body inside the room would have made it
difficult for anyone to see him from any of the doorways," Norberg said.
"It seems likely that Wade somehow entered the room sometime shortly
after he was last seen thinking that it was a way to gain entrance to
the residence hall. The utility room would have been dark, and he
apparently tripped over high-voltage lines that connect the three
transformers as he was trying to find his way out."
The room is about 50 yards from the northwest corner of Owen Hall, where
Steffey was reportedly seen at around 12:30 a.m. on Jan. 13.
Investigators said he had left his coat with a friend who lives at the
residence hall. At about the same time, he placed two cell phone calls
to friends in Owen Hall, a short walk away from his room in Cary
Quadrangle. Earlier on the evening of Jan. 12 Steffey attended a party
in the Tower Drive area.
"Our entire campus community, along with Wade's family, friends and
volunteers, have put so much effort into finding Wade and bringing him
home," Norberg said. "While this ends the search for Wade, our search
for answers continues. We offer our condolences and our continued
support for his family."
An independent investigation also will be conducted, she said.
Norberg said an earlier campus search for Steffey included the Owen Hall
complex. She said residence hall employees did not have keys to the
room, which was normally locked as it was on the day of the search.
It is believed that physical facilities employees subsequently checked
the room but did not see Steffey's body behind the transformer, Norberg
said. She said workers would have been forced to shut off power to all
of Owen Hall in order to completely search the high-voltage room.
Steffey, 19, of Bloomington, Ind., was a National Merit Scholar majoring
in aviation technology. He was reported missing on Jan. 16 when his
roommate returned to campus after the Martin Luther King holiday break.
Source: Jeanne Norberg, (765) 494-2084, email@example.com
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