UCSB athlete’s family sets up university and high school scholarship fund in his memory

The Santa Barbara Coroner’s Office ruled the death of UCSB student and water polo player Nicholas Johnson an “accidental drowning” on Thursday, after he was found unconscious at the bottom of Santa Barbara High School’s pool on March 24.

However, what caused Johnson to fall unconscious has yet to be determined, and the Coroner’s Office plans to carry out a toxicology test and report the results within the next two weeks, hoping to provide more details on the nature of Johnson’s death. Since his death, Johnson’s parents have established a memorial fund in his honor benefitting the water polo teams at both UCSB and Santa Barbara High School, Johnson’s alma mater.

According to Sgt. Riley Harwood of Santa Barbara Police Department, although Johnson was practicing in the pool at the same time as the high school water polo team members who found him, they may not have noticed his unresponsiveness immediately because Johnson was separated from them while doing his own workout.

“I don’t think the swimmers were paying that close attention to them because they were doing their own thing. He didn’t have a partner or anything that he was doing these drills with,” Harwood said. “You know, one moment they see him doing his own workout, the next moment he’s unresponsive at the bottom.”

Harwood said despite the mysterious circumstances behind Johnson’s death, police have not found anything to suggest foul play and are treating the incident as an accident.

“In our investigation, we have not uncovered any suspicious circumstances or anything,” Harwood said. “So from our standpoint, it’s basically the coroner’s case from this point.”


A version of this story appeared on page 7 of Wednesday, April 2, 2014’s print edition of the Daily Nexus.