Former UBC athlete who perished in Fraser River was "high-achieving young man": coach

Jul 7 2020, 3:41 pm

A young man who perished over the weekend after diving into the Fraser River to retrieve a football is being remembered by his university football coach as a “low-maintenance, high-achieving young man.”

On Sunday, Kory Conner Hedeo Nagata entered the waters of Fraser, not far from the  Pacific Gateway Hotel in Richmond, according to police. A boat with several people on board had docked at the pier, and Nagata jumped in the river to get a football that had fallen in.

“Witnesses say the man had retrieved the football, but was unable to return to the dock — disappearing from view as horrified onlookers rushed to his aid,” said Richmond RCMP Cpl. Ian Henderson.

Authorities launched a search around 9:30 pm, bringing in boats, a dive team, drones, and ATVs to scour the riverbank.

Just before noon on Monday, when the river was at low tide, authorities found Nagata’s body not far from where he entered the water.

Nagata was identified as a former member of the UBC Thunderbirds football team, and on Tuesday, his coach, Blake Nill, spoke with Daily Hive about the young man who he said was a “positive impact – not only with his teammates in the locker room, but all throughout campus at UBC.”

Nill said Nagata’s university football career with UBC began in the 2016-17 season, but the following season he suffered a broken foot. And despite a year of rehabilitation and physical therapy, Nagata “wasn’t able to return to the field in the capacity that he had previously played at and was adept to.”

And while Nagata, a student of business and commerce through UBC’s Sauder School of Business, ultimately decided to leave football in 2019, “he was still a member of the program, and I was hoping that once everything with COVID-19 had subsided he would take another shot to return, but we never got that opportunity,” said Nill.

At this point, Nill said he still hasn’t fully “come to terms with the complete reality of the situation.”

Upon hearing the news of Nagata’s death, he said his first concern was for Nagata’s mother, then his brother and father.

“That shifted to his extended family, which is his team,” he added. “What I want them to do is just be there for one another, the way Kory would have been on the other side of a situation like this.”

And while the passing is still fresh in everyone’s minds, Nill said he’s hopeful that “we’re going to be able to do something more formal here in the short-term, and it’s just a matter of trying to coordinate everyone, once the shock precipitates off just a bit.”

In the meantime, Nill said he’ll remember Nagata as a “low-maintenance, high-achieving young man, and an incredible example of the power of sport and academics.”

Finally, he would like people to know that Nagata was “more than a football player” and was an “active part” of the campus community.

“I think beyond just the football team, there’s a broader community here that understands that we’ve had a significant loss of a person with a lot of potential.”

Eric ZimmerEric Zimmer

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