Updated 02/28/2011 08:39 PM
Sheriff: Alcohol appears to be factor in student deaths
People in the Ithaca area are mourning the loss of two students. George Desdunes, 19, who went to Cornell, and Victoria Cheng, 17, of Ithaca College, died over the weekend in unrelated incidents. Sheriff's deputies say their deaths may have been related to alcohol. As our Kat De Maria reports, Cheng also went to high school in the town where people are remembering her as a promising young woman.
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ITHACA, N.Y. -- Footprints in the snow are the only immediate indicator that something unusual happened behind apartments on Pennsylvania Avenue in Ithaca.
Look closer and you notice a small cross, an unassuming marker of where the short life of 17-year-old Victoria Cheng ended, where the Ithaca College freshman's body was found over the weekend.
"Obviously, it's been a very, very tough couple of days. Certainly the entire campus is in shock and very saddened by Victoria's passing," said Brian McAree, Ithaca College Student Affairs/Campus Life Vice President.
Cheng, a biology major, had just joined Ithaca's tennis team. She had also played at Ithaca High School, where her former coach says he and the team were shocked to hear of her passing.
"She was very healthy, in the prime of her life. She's the last person I thought something like this would happen to," said Ithaca High School Tennis Coach Arthur Falkson.
The coach says Cheng was a dedicated student, player and teammate.
"She was a very hard worker. Very conscientious. And very caring about other people, always trying to help others on the team and encourage them," Falkson said.
Officials at Ithaca have been providing support and opportunities to grieve for the community that included the entire Cheng family.
"Her father is a professor in the business school. Her mother's an alumnus. And her brother is a sophomore here. It's especially hard," McAree said.
Through her studies, tennis and Ithaca's Relay for Life, officials say Victoria Cheng had a promising start at the college, one that ended prematurely on a snowy night.