Dec. 3, 2012— -- A senior from the University of Virginia was bludgeoned to death by a boat propeller while swimming off the coast of Dominica, in the Caribbean, during a Semester at Sea.
Casey Schulman, 22, of Falls Church, Va., was on a recreational snorkeling trip not organized by the study abroad program when she was hit, according to a statement from the program.
Dominica police inspector Richmond Valentine told the Associated Press that Schulman and other students had hired a boat owned by a local operator in Roseau and gone snorkeling Saturday afternoon. After they were finished, they went to a nearby beach and swam on the shore.
There, Schulman was struck by the boat's propeller as the boat's captain was apparently driving in reverse, according to Richmond. She was pronounced dead at a local hospital.
Schulman was a senior foreign affairs major who was participating in the Semester at Sea program this fall. She and about 50 other students were on the boat that stopped in Dominica.
The University of Virginia released a series of statements about Schulman's death, noting that she was a well-known student on campus who was immersed in international studies and a part of the Alpha Phi sorority.
"Casey Schulman's death is a cause of much sadness at the university. She was an exceptionally bright light, both in and outside the classroom, and she will long be remembered as a vibrant member of our community," said Vice President and Chief Student Affairs Officer Patricia Lampkin. "We must gather together as family to support each other in our grief and to commemorate Casey's memory."
"She was the only person I've ever known whose smile could actually light up an entire room," said Katie Dorset, her shipboard roommate and close friend from Virginia, according to a memorial on the program's website.
During the semester's cruise, the ship sailed to Europe, Africa and South America. The Semester at Sea boat held a memorial service Sunday and is scheduled to end its voyage at Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on Friday.
Schulman's parents requested that a memory box be established on board the ship, where students and staff could place photos and stories of Schulman for her family once the voyage is over, according to Michael Zoll, of the school's Institute for Shipboard Education.
"Casey 'radiated happiness,' remembered one academic dean who worked with her," according to Zoll's statement, released by UVA. "'And she spoke with clarity about issues that mattered, inside the classroom and beyond."
A prayer vigil was also held Sunday on the University of Virginia campus, and a memorial service is being planned, according to the school. Grief counseling is available for students at the school.
Richmond and the Schulman family did not return calls for comment today.