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Bloomington family reaches $2 million settlement following drowning

A gavel sits on a judge's bench. On top of that photo, the words "WGLT Courts" appears.
WGLT file photo

A Bloomington family has agreed to a $2 million settlement with the state of Iowa over their son's drowning.

Derek Nanni, 19, was a freshman on Iowa State's rowing team when he and a teammate, 20-year-old Yaakov Ben-David of Washington, D.C., drowned in Little Wall Lake in March 2021.

Nanni's parents, Audra Zabava and Daniel Nanni, filed a wrongful death claim with the state of Iowa. The claim accused the university of negligence. It said the university lacked proper training and emergency communications and that crew members were not provided life jackets.

The claim said the crew team violated its own rules by going in the water during high winds. Surface conditions on the lake were “very rough and hazardous,” according to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. The claim indicated the temperature was below 36 degrees and wind gusts were projected to reach 25 miles per hour.

The two students who died had never rowed before, according to the claim. “Given the absence of any experience whatsoever on the part of Derek and Taakov, the decision to continue was clearly negligent and in violation of the club's own standards,” the claim stated.

The Iowa attorney general negotiated the settlement with Nanni's parents, who initially filed a claim for $15 million. Iowa’s State Appeal Board, which is comprised of the state’s treasurer, auditor and director of the Department of Management, approved the settlement on Dec. 12.

Nanni was a graduate of University High School in Normal.

Ben-David’s family is suing Iowa State University, according to media reports.

Eric Stock is the News Director at WGLT. You can contact Eric at ejstoc1@ilstu.edu.