20-yr-old Nigerian student-athlete drowns in US river

A 20-year-old Nigerian student-athlete, Oluwatoni Onikeku, has drowned while swimming with friends in the Deerfield River, Deerfield, United States.

Oluwatoni Onikeku jumping

A 20-year-old Nigerian student-athlete, Oluwatoni Onikeku, has drowned while swimming with friends in the Deerfield River, Deerfield, United States.

Deerfield Police Chief John Paciorek Jr. said he was swimming across the river with a friend near Stillwater Bridge Sunday evening when he drowned.

Paciorek said the friend tried to help him but could not hold him up for long enough.

Onikeku, a top student at the University of Massachusetts (UMass) Lowell where he was a member of the track team, was a political science major with a 3.15 GPA.

The university issued a statement about his death.

"The university community is deeply saddened to learn of the tragic passing of Oluwatoni Onikeku," the statement read.

"Our thoughts are with his family and friends, to whom we offer our heartfelt sympathy."

In post on the UMass Lowell track and field team page, the head coach of the track and field team, Gary Gardner, described Onikeku as hard-working, focused and a “true team leader.”

“There wasn’t one person on the team that he didn’t sincerely care about and it showed,” Gardner said.

"It didn’t matter if it was a jumper, thrower or distance runner Toni was friends with all of them."

Onikeku, known by most friends as simply "Toni", moved to the US with his family from Lagos, Nigeria in 2002.

He was expected to graduate in May 2016.

An online crowd-funding campaign to raise money to assist Onikeku’s family with funeral expenses got $15,620 in one day, though the target was originally $9,000.

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