A Columbia University student from Ireland, Ella Mills, dies in a freak kayaking accident in Little Falls on the Potomac River
- Former Trinity College Dublin student Ella Mills had only moved to New York a few days earlier
- She became trapped under a rock by a strong current after being tipped from her boat
- Pete Piringer of Montgomery County Fire and Rescue said if you were trapped underwater in that area it would be “like having 500 pounds of pressure against you.”
The brother of a young Irish woman has said he is ‘heartbroken’ after she died in a freak kayaking accident just days after starting a new life in the US.
Ella Mills had arrived from Dublin earlier this month to study English at Columbia University in New York and within days signed up for a trip to the Potomac in Washington DC with the university’s Whitewater Kayaking Club.
But she was tipped out of her boat at a stretch near Little Falls and caught in a current that dragged her under a rock around 3:15 p.m. Sunday.
The group desperately tried to pull her free, but the force of the water held her underwater as first responders rushed to the scene.
‘It’s very deceptive. It seems calm in some areas, but it’s not,” said Pete Piringer with Montgomery County Fire and Rescue.
“If you’re submerged even six feet, it’s like you have 500 pounds of pressure against you.”
Columbia University student Ella Mills in a photo released by her former high school in Dublin
The stretch of whitewater at Little Falls on the Potomac is a magnet for kayakers, but potentially deadly
First responders were unable to save the student’s life when they arrived on the scene
Ella had just moved to Manhattan as a third-year General Studies student in the university’s Dual BA program, after studying English at Trinity College Dublin.
“She had a love of learning, was intellectually curious, and passionate about literature – eager to delve into new ways of looking at literature and seeing the world as a literary scholar,” Columbia professor Lisa Rosen-Metsch wrote in a tribute at the time she broke. news about student deaths.
‘She was an active member of the Trinity College Dublin community as part of the Trinity College Dublin drama society, the DU Players, the Trinity College Dublin Tennis Club and the Philosophical Society, among others.
“To our GS community, we mourn with you and keep Ella and her family and friends in our thoughts and hearts.”
The university was due to hold a counseling session for Ella’s friends, and her brother Leo praised the university for its response.
“This is truly heartbreaking, but I am extremely pleased that the school is being proactive about this,” he wrote.
About 20 people from Columbia were traveling when the tragedy occurred near Chain Bridge, on a stretch of the river that runs northwest from the capital toward Maryland.
Pete Piringer of Montgomery County Fire and Rescue warned that calm waters can be very misleading
The beautiful stretch of the Potomac is not far from the DC state line with Maryland
Ella’s teachers describe her as ‘intellectually curious and passionate about literature’
Ella was described as “much cherished” by her former headteacher at Sutton Park School in Dublin, where she graduated in 2020.
“Ella’s mother Jo-Ann Feely will be known to many of you as chair of our Board of Directors,” principal Ronan Walsh wrote on the school’s website.
“Our hearts are broken for Jo-Ann, Ralph and Ella’s two siblings, Isabel and Leo, who are in their second year.
‘This is a truly tragic time. Words fail us all. Our condolences and thoughts are with Ella’s family and her large group of friends. May she rest in peace.’