Friday , February 26 2021

University of Iowa student is among 20 dead in the Deep Freeze of the Midwest

Officials at the coroner's office said they did an autopsy, but did not get final results and did not disclose information about the cause of death so far. University of Iowa police say the investigation is continuing, but Gerald Belz's death is believed to be weather-related.

A medical student, he had been in touch with his girlfriend, Leeanne Mehring-Cruz, through text and video messages from Snapchat in the hours before he died, but he had left social media around one o'clock in the morning.

Ms. Mehring-Cruz, who lives in Cedar Rapids, said she had been seeing Gerald Belz for two years. She described him as sweet and brilliant, someone who only showed his soft side to his family and close friends. One of the last things he wrote last night, she said in an interview conducted by Twitter, was that he loved how she was always present to him through it all.

"I'd like to have him protected then," she said.

Mehring-Cruz said he hoped police would quickly find out where he was going and what happened to him. "I have no idea what he was doing," she said. "The last messages we sent were I love you and good night."

Michael Belz said that Gerald, the eldest of his two sons, was a careful and compassionate, studious and avid rugby player who wanted to become a doctor. He was already ahead in his university studies because he completed Advanced Placement classes in high school.

He played football in high school, but then turned to rugby. "He loved it, much to the dismay of his mother, who wanted to protect him and keep him safe," said his father. "He had a great time with that."

The Beels were the last to see his son on Sunday night when he was home. Snow started to fall and Michael Belz insisted that he go back to campus before things got too slippery.

Then Gerald got his things together, said goodbye, and went back to his dorm. About ten o'clock he called his mother to give him the usual assurance: he had arrived safely.

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