Family members of a missing Northwestern University student on Wednesday put up a $25,000 reward for information as the search for the teen expanded to the waters of Lake Michigan near his residence hall.
Harsha Maddula, 18, vanished early Saturday morning after he left a party near campus. The last signals from his cell phone came from the cell tower near the harbor, about two miles north of Maddula's residence hall, the university said in a statement.
Maddula, a sophomore pre-med student, was last seen leaving the party in the 2000 block of Ridge Avenue in Evanston at about 12:30 a.m. Saturday. The party was about a mile away from his dorm room.
A review of closed-circuit video and electronic key records indicate he never returned to his residence hall, officials said.
Divers on Wednesday began searching the harbor waters around 8:30 a.m. as the coast guard and Wilmette Fire Department search the area and docked boats.
Maddula’s uncle, Sam Maddali, told reporters that the harbor was not a place to which his nephew would be drawn.
"He does not like swimming or the outdoors," he said. "He really likes reading books, and he’s a wonderful kid. Hopefully we’ll bring him home today."
Meanwhile, Maddula's friends and family resumed their search at 7 a.m. around campus.
"We have not lost hope," said Surekha Maddula, Harsha's aunt. "It has been a struggle, but we are a large, close-knit family."
"Please anyone, please help us," said Maddula's mother through tears.
"We cannot control our emotions any longer," said his father, Prasad, as he also began crying, "because we don't know if our son is alive or not."
Northwestern University officials on Tuesday asked for the FBI's help in finding Maddula, last seen wearing a grey long-sleeved sweater with black and white stitching, dark grey pants and brown shoes.
Anyone with information on his whereabouts is asked to call Northwestern University Police at 847-491-3254.