Updated: 10/25/2013 7:44 AM
Created: 10/24/2013 8:41 PM KSTP.com
By: Stephen Tellier
The family of a college student who died while hiking in a remote part of India is suing the company that organized and ran the trip.
It's just the latest tragic example for a group pushing for legislation to better protect Minnesota's students traveling and studying abroad.
"Our sons and daughters are our greatest treasures," said Elizabeth Brenner in a video put together by the ClearCause Foundation, a local nonprofit pushing for better regulation and oversight of the student travel industry.
He was 20 years old, a University of Iowa student from Minnetonka, when he joined a group trip to explore remote areas of India in the fall of 2011. But Thomas Plotkin never came home.
"He was beautiful. He was perfect. He was my world," Brenner said.
Plotkin was hiking on a slick mountainside path when he lost his footing and fell to his death.
"His body was never found," Brenner said.
On Tuesday, Brenner filed a lawsuit in federal court against the National Outdoor Leadership School, the wilderness education and leadership group based in Wyoming that ran Plotkin's trip. In the lawsuit, Brenner accused NOLS of negligence in her son's death. She alleges NOLS didn't provide enough instruction and supervision to its students and didn't notify authorities fast enough after Plotkin's fall.
"I wanted to give my son the world. It's not worth it if they die," said Sheryl Hill, founder of the ClearCause Foundation.
Hill suffered a similar tragedy. Her son, Tyler, died while traveling abroad in Japan in 2007, at the age of 16. She founded ClearCause two years ago.
"No one investigates these programs. They investigate themselves," Hill said.
Hill is also urging parents to do their homework on travel and study abroad programs to ensure their children will be able to share their amazing stories when they return home, safe and sound.
"You need to know everything that happens on those trips and who you are trusting your child to because there are sometimes no second chances," Hill said.
NOLS called the lawsuit "disappointing," but declined to comment on the details of the case. An official said the group has an extensive safety program and employs instructors who are trained and certified. It also said it warns all participants of the risk of exploring remote areas of the world well in advance.