Student from South Florida dies after late-night swim

ESTERO — A Florida Gulf Coast University student drowned early this morning after a group of young adults took a late-night swim in a campus lake.

Joel Johnson, 21, of Lauderhill, died from what appears to be an accidental drowning, according to the Lee County Sheriff's Office.

Johnson was at the lake beach with about 10 other people, five of whom began swimming out to a trampoline about 20 yards off the lakeshore, said university spokeswoman Susan Evans. Johnson started having difficulty swimming and never reached the trampoline, Evans said.

The water is believed to be about 10 feet deep near the trampoline.

The Sheriff's Office received a 911 call at 1:03 a.m. today in reference to a swimmer that had not resurfaced. Members of the San Carlos Fire Department located Johnson's body at 3:16 a.m, according to the Sheriff's Office.

Evans said the beach is open during the summer from noon to 5 p.m.

"In the past, there have been some situations where students were out there past operating hours," Evans said. "There has been student discipline in the past, but I can't speak to the kind of discipline because of student privacy laws. We're not aware of anything that's happened recently and certainly there have been no tragedies like this."

Johnson was enrolled in summer classes and had been at the university since 2008. He was an junior English major and a resident assistant on campus.

Evans said the lake was a former rock mining pit.

"It drops off in funny places and it can be deep in some places," she said.

A sign at the beachfront entrance says the area is monitored by a camera producing a live stream, but Evans said the camera hasn't been used for several months and was reserved for special events.

Crisis counselors were available at the beachfront Thursday morning. No immediate plans for an on-campus memorial were available.

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