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Cause of death still being investigated for man found in Pine Creek under railroad bridge

Preliminary results of an autopsy Tuesday morning did not pinpoint the cause of the death of a Rochelle man found Sunday in the creek at the White Pines State Park.

The body of Joseph Large, 24, was found fully submerged in the Pine Creek under a railroad bridge at the park's northern boundary.

"We have nothing conclusive pending the results of further tests," Ogle County Sheriff Michael Harn said late Tuesday morning after the autopsy at the Ogle County Morgue in Oregon.

He said toxicology tests will also be performed to determine if alcohol was a factor.

Harn said evidence showed Large apparently lost his footing on the high rock cliffs next to the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad bridge, fell down the steep bank, and possibly struck a large rock in the water.

Large's body was scraped, apparently from the fall, he said.

Harn estimated that the Pine Creek is 14 feet deep in the park near the bridge, which is several feet above the water.

Harn said Large had left the group of friends he was picnicking with Sunday at the park after a disagreement.

His friends told deputies that they saw him walking away from the picnic area near the second ford toward the north end of the park.

After the friends were later unable to find Large, they called the sheriff's department at 2:14 p.m. to report him missing.

He was discovered in the creek just after 3 p.m., and was pronounced dead at the scene after his body was recovered from the water.

He was wearing only jeans when he was discovered, Harn said.

The Polo Fire Department and ambulance, Oregon Fire Department water rescue team, Illinois Department of Natural Resources, and the Ogle County Coroner assisted the sheriff's department.

Large is the second person to die at the park in two weeks in separate, unrelated incidents.

Brandon Landau, 19, Bronx, N. Y., was found unresponsive partially in the Pine Creek March 4 in a picnic area near the main entrance to the park. He was flown to Rockford Memorial Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Harn said Tuesday that the cause of Landau's death has not yet been determined. Preliminary autopsy results showed he was intoxicated.

The investigation revealed that Landau, a student at Illinois Wesleyan University, Bloomington, was last seen at a fraternity party in the Pine Creek Cabins across Pines Road from the park. He had been staying at a cabin next to the park's lodge.

Despite the two deaths in a short period of time, Harn said the park is "absolutely" safe for visitors.

"The park has been there for many, many years. The only incidents we've had there is when people use bad judgment," Harn said. "It's a very safe park. My family has gone there often for many years."