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Rutgers-Camden student dies as car plunges into lake

Police are investigating the death of a Rutgers-Camden student whose car was found submerged in Newton Lake in Collingswood Wednesday morning.

Ricky Phillips, 21, of Oaklyn, was pulled from the car by divers shortly after 9 a.m. after a county worker spotted the car in the water.

The time and circumstances under which the car went into the creek remain unclear, said Camden County Parks Police Sgt. Vincent DiPasquale.

It appeared the car drove through a parking lot at Newton Creek Park at some point Wednesday morning, breaking through a wooden barrier and then traveling approximately 150 yards across the park, knocking over a light pole and bench, before going into the water.

Phillips spoke to a friend on his cellphone around midnight Wednesday and gave no indication of any trouble, DiPasquale said. The damage in the park was discovered around 7:30 a.m.

"It looks like he came straight down Browning Road and across the parking lot at some point overnight," said DiPasquale. "We don't know why."

An autopsy was scheduled for Thursday morning.

Phillips, a senior in accounting at Rutgers who graduated from Paul VI High School in Haddonfield, was pronounced dead at Cooper University Hospital.

"The parents are distraught," said Tom McConnell, Phillips' uncle. "We're still trying to piece a lot of things together."

On Wednesday afternoon, some of Phillips' friends drove to the park and gathered at the spot where the car went into the water.

As the rain peppered down, they answered questions about their friend before climbing back into a pickup truck.

"Someone called me this morning. I couldn't believe it. I've known him since kindergarten," said Dan Radetich, 21, a student at Saint Joseph's University in Philadelphia.