A maintenance worker investigating a "pinging" sound on Monday discovered the body of Wade Steffey, a freshman who was last seen in the area Jan. 13 after he left a fraternity party. The Tippecanoe County coroner identified the body Tuesday.
Purdue spokeswoman Jeanne Norberg said Steffey had been fatally shocked when he entered the utility room, apparently in an effort to get into Owen Hall to retrieve his coat. It appeared that he tripped and fell onto a power transformer, she said.
"He is believed to have died instantly," she said.
The area had been repeatedly searched after Steffey was reported missing, and maintenance staff opened the utility room, but Norberg said they didn't fully inspect the interior because of the risk posed by the high-voltage lines.
The entrance to the utility room is about 50 yards from the door at Owen Hall, where Steffey had been seen earlier.
On Monday, Norberg said a worker unlocked the door leading to the utility room and found the student's body slumped over a piece of machinery.
Power had to be cut off to the coed residence hall to retrieve the body.
"We have the answer now, the big answer, to where our son is," said Steffey's mother, Dawn Adams, who said she and her husband had felt before the body's discovery that their son was dead.
"Now everyone who was praying for us can have a measure of peace," she said. "This affects so many more people than us. Now there is grief."