WSU student drowns in Seattle hotel pool

Murky pool had to be drained to find Ethiopian man's body

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SEATTLE — A Washington State University graduate student and economics instructor has drowned in a Seattle hotel pool after spending hours underwater.

Tesfaye Deboch, 27, was swimming laps around 5:30 p.m. June 30 at the Quality Inn & Suites near the Seattle Center. Witnesses say he suddenly stopped in the deep end of the pool and began waving his arms for help.

By the time first responders arrived at the hotel, Deboch had sunk to the bottom of the murky pool and could not be immediately located.

The Moscow-Pullman Daily News reports Deboch and other WSU graduate students were in Seattle attending an economics conference.

Deboch's friend, Pavan Dhanireddy, said he ran into the hotel lobby to get help when Deboch got into trouble.

Dhanireddy said responding Seattle firefighters used a long cleaning pole to search the 8-foot-deep water for Deboch, but found nothing.

Deboch's colleagues then called nearby hospitals in search of him, and also looked at security camera footage. When they couldn't locate him, they decided he must still be in the pool.

Hotel staff was asked to drain the pool, and the body was found nearly three hours after the first 911 call.

Bill Barbour, an investigator with the King County Medical Examiner, said Deboch's death was ruled an accident, and attributed to asphyxia due to freshwater drowning.

Colleague Rebekah Schrade said Deboch was buried by his family on Monday near his home in Ethiopia.

Schrade said the past week has been difficult for the faculty, staff and students in WSU's School of Economic Sciences, where Deboch was about to enter his fourth and final year in the Ph.D. program.

She said Deboch taught several entry-level economics courses and tutored many students.

"He was more full of life than anybody," Schrade said.