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Local News

Coroner: UCSB Water Polo Player Nick Johnson’s Death Was ‘Accidental Drowning’

Nicholas Johnson

The Santa Barbara County Coroner’s Office has made a preliminary determination that accidental drowning was the cause of death for UCSB water polo player Nick Johnson.

Johnson, 19, was found unresponsive Monday morning at the bottom of the pool at Santa Barbara High School, where he was practicing alongside the high school swim team.

The Santa Barbara Police Department hasn’t found anything suspicious in the case, Sgt. Riley Harwood said.

The Coroner’s Office is waiting on toxicological results, which is normal investigative procedure when a young, healthy person dies, said Lt. Butch Arnoldi of the Sheriff’s Department.

Results should take two weeks, and the preliminary finding is “accidental drowning,” he said

Johnson played on the UCSB water polo team since graduating in 2012 from Santa Barbara High, where he played on the varsity team.

A relentless athlete, he would train every day, whether or not the team was practicing, his father told Noozhawk.

His parents and three younger siblings are all struggling to make sense of his death.

He was well-loved in the community and there’s been incredible support for his family and efforts to keep his memory alive.

Johnson’s family has worked with Santa Barbara High School to set up a memorial fund where people can donate to the aquatics program in his name.

Every UCSB athletic team will wear “NJ” patches for the rest of the year, according to the Athletics Department. The baseball team will be wearing them starting at Friday’s game.

The family is also setting up some kind of scholarship program to honor his legacy.

Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider adjourned Tuesday’s City Council meeting in Johnson’s name to honor him after his “untimely and tragic passing.”

He was a city employee in the junior lifeguards program for several years, and his brother Sam, a water polo player for Santa Barbara High and a club team, was playing in Santa Barbara’s sister city of Kotor, Montenegro, when he got the news, she said.

Check back later for an expanded version of this story.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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