Drowning was cited as the preliminary cause of death for a 21-year-old University of Minnesota Duluth student whose body was pulled from the Minnesota Slip in Canal Park on Friday.
"The preliminary cause of death is drowning," the Midwest Medical Examiner's Office reported Monday after conducting an autopsy. "Toxicology is pending."
Jacob Lavoie had been missing since early Sunday, Sept. 1, when he was seen leaving Grandma's Sports Garden and walking north toward downtown. Police last week, however, received a tip that Lavoie possibly was seen near the slip on the night he went missing.
Rescue and recovery crews narrowed their search to the Minnesota Slip after Duluth police received a “solid citizen tip” on Thursday from a witness, according to St. Louis County Undersheriff Dave Phillips.
According to the caller, one or more witnesses spotted a man matching Lavoie’s description exit The Suites Hotel in Canal Park through a rear entrance on the night Lavoie was last seen.
The back of the hotel runs along the Minnesota Slip, with a parking lot and walkway in between, and boats are moored along the slip behind the hotel.
Phillips said the witness or witnesses initially followed the man, the caller told police, but he climbed a fence to reach a closed-access section of the boardwalk along the slip. The witness(es) saw the man jump onto a sailboat and jump off again before losing sight of him.
Crews initially searched Lake Superior’s waters off Canal Park as well, but after the tip was received, the St. Louis County Rescue Squad brought in cadaver dogs to search the slip, and the dogs immediately hit on a scent near where the caller described seeing the man, Phillips said.
The Rescue Squad searched the slip using side-scan sonar before deploying a remotely operated vehicle to search below the surface.
Lavoie’s body was found the next afternoon, Sept. 6, about 10 feet below the surface on the slip’s floor. There were no initial signs of foul play, Phillips said.
The Duluth Police Department and St. Louis County Sheriff's Office are continuing to investigate the circumstances of Lavoie's death.
Tim Johnson, a cousin of Lavoie's mother and family spokesperson, said Monday that the family had received few updates on the case over the weekend.
A GoFundMe site has been set up for Lavoie's family at gofundme.com/f/jacob-lavoie-fund.
A visitation for Lavoie is scheduled for 4-7 p.m. Friday at Roberts Funeral Home, 8108 Barbara Ave., Inver Grove Heights, Minn. Another visitation is planned Saturday morning at 10 a.m. before a memorial service and luncheon at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, 7600 Cahill Ave. E., Inver Grove Heights.