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University of Illinois Mourns the Loss of Two Students

Updated: Friday, June 27 2014, 09:52 AM CDT

Brazilian authorities are searching to find the body of 20-year-old Richard Fu, who they believe drowned in Rio de Janeiro this past weekend.

U of I officials say Fu was on a travel abroad trip. Fu's professor says he was a very focused student.

"He was somebody who was very interested in crops and genetics and had a bright future ahead of him."

Dr. Diers taught Fu this past semester. He says it was a trip Fu was very excited about.

"During the semester he talked to me about it and he talked about his excitement for this trip and i think he was also learning a little bit of portugese before he left."

Just two days before Fu's disappearance, graduate student Ashley Walls died. She contracted meningitis while in Brazil on an independent research project.   

"Her absence is going to make a huge void that won't easily be filled. She was a wonnderful student, she was highly motivated, I had to slow her down quite a bit."

Chancellor Phyllis provided this statement: "We are all saddened by the news of what has happened to two of our students in the past few days...Our focus right now is working with our partners and government contacts in Brazil to help their families navigate this difficult time..."

"It's kinda crazy you know because both students there over there for like a good cause at the same time and I just think it's terrible all that actually happened."

With lots of grieving ahead, school officials say students should not shy away from studying abroad.

"Even though this tragedy happens, I think students still need to take whatever opportunities they have."

According to published reports, it appears that Fu ignored red flags indicating the water was not suitable for swimming and entered the ocean anyway.

Meanwhile, authorities are still searching for his body.

It's important to note that the U of I did help his family with travel expenses to Brazil, where authorites there continue to investigate.

University of Illinois Mourns the Loss of Two Students

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