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Parents of Eau Claire drowning victim files civil suit against fellow swimmer

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EAU CLAIRE, WI (WTAQ) - The parents of a 21-year-old Eau Claire man who drowned in the Chippewa River 15 months ago have filed a wrongful death suit against a fellow swimmer at the time.

Larry and Anita Fike claim that Andrew Grill saw Joseph Fike’s head go below the water – or that he caused it to be submerged. The plaintiffs said there was a conflict between their son and Gill, and they’re seeking unspecified damages.

Eau Claire Police said they found no evidence of foul play when they investigated Joseph Fike’s death.

An autopsy found no traumatic injuries on the victim, which led to a ruling that the death was an accidental drowning. Fike’s blood alcohol level at the time was just over 0.30 – almost four times the minimum level of intoxication for drunk drivers.

News accounts at the time said Fike and some friends were trying to swim back to shore from an island in the middle of the river – but Fike couldn’t make it. And authorities mentioned that a strong current had made the Chippewa River dangerous. 

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