Mother whose son died abroad wants other parents to prepare - My29 WFTC Minneapolis-St. Paul

Mother whose son died abroad wants other parents to prepare

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Saturday, Sept. 22, will mark exactly one year since Elizabeth Brenner's son, Thomas Plotkin, fell to his death while studying abroad in India.

Now, Brenner wants to warn other parents to be prepared in case their child's adventure of a lifetime ends in tragedy.

"All of the feelings, numbness, shock have worn off," said Brenner at her Minnetonka home on the eve of the somber anniversary.

There's this feeling we should be able to turn back the clock and still go back and undo it, and one year undoes that. The seasons have passed. You can't turn it back. This is the rest of your life," she said.

Even though some time has passed, Brenner says her son's death feels more real now than ever before.

"He never comes home. I think we, his family, wish for him in dreams. Its the only way to get a visit from him," said Brenner.

The 20-year-old was a junior at the University of Iowa, where he played lacrosse for the Iowa Hawkeyes.

While studying in India last September, he and a group of other students were hiking along a mountain trail when Plotkin slipped and fell 300 feet into the river below.

"I describe it like white lightning. The inside of my body felt like it was literally emptied out and filled with white lightning. It was that level of grief," said Brenner.

Since Plotkin died in a remote area of India, it took months for his mother to learn the details about what happened to him.

Brenner says anyone sending a child overseas should make an emergency plan before they leave, which includes getting their passport and setting aside money to travel halfway around the world, in case the unthinkable occurs.

"Don't be naive. There are risks associated with study abroad and if something does happen to your child, you may be on your own," says Brenner.

To mark the anniversary of Plotkin's death, his family and former teammates from the Hopkins High School Hockey team got together to share stories, but Brenner hopes other parents learn a valuable lesson from what happened to her family.

"We wish he would come home but he can't. So we want to protect other students and children and parents so they don't have to go through this," she said.

Brenner says the $20-billion a year study abroad industry is largely unregulated, so she recommends asking the study abroad company for its safety record including the number of deaths they've before.

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