Two Texas A&M University students died on campus within hours of each other, in apparently separate incidents that left the small campus on Pelican Island in mourning Friday.
Over the course of about 14 hours, school officials confirmed Brandon Perlowski, 23, a cadet in the Texas Maritime Academy from Lorena, was missing and later found dead, and that Wesley Jerome Mallernee, 18, a marine biology student from Conroe, had died in a dormitory room.
“We’re still kind of reeling right now,” university spokeswoman Rebecca Watts said.
“When we lose an Aggie, we all feel it deeply in a lot of different ways. We are an incredibly close campus community,” Watts said. “Right now, we’re just trying to come up for air, get our bearings and support each other.”
Perlowski‘s disappearance launched an urgent search that involved a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter, drones and police dogs scouring an undeveloped area north of the Seawolf Parkway.
The university at 1 p.m. Friday announced searchers had found human remains and ended the search. Officials still were working Friday afternoon to officially identify the remains as Perlowski.
Perlowski was last seen alive Wednesday, and concern about him began growing Thursday after his car was found abandoned on campus.
The Galveston Police Department and other agencies were contacted about his disappearance about 7:40 p.m., and other agencies were enlisted to assist with the search.
About 200 Texas A&M University at Galveston students also helped with the search, officials said.
Officials didn’t release details about who found Perlowski’s body or other circumstances about his death. A press conference scheduled to update the media about the search was canceled after the remains were found.
As the search for Perlowski was underway, school officials received a call from Mallernee’s family, worried that they had not heard from him. Mallernee was found dead inside his dorm room in Pacific Hall.
Police didn’t immediately identify either Mallernee or Perlowski’s death as suspicious. The Galveston County Medical Examiner’s Office was scheduled to perform autopsies on both students to determine causes of death.
In a statement, Galveston Police Chief Vernon Hale said Mallernee had a preexisting medical condition that contributed to his death.
Foul play wasn’t suspected in either death, and he asked the public and the media to respect the privacy of the men’s families.
About 1,450 students are enrolled at the Galveston campus, most of them in maritime-related courses. Fewer students are on campus this year because they have the option of attending classes virtually during the COVID-19 pandemic, Watts said
The university said it would offer counseling services to students and staff affected by the deaths. Counseling was available by calling 409-740-4736 or by visiting Building 3030, Suite 104.
More information and resources for people will be announced in coming days, the university said.