Family of Ohio University Student Who Died Sues Fraternity

February 16, 2019 Updated: February 16, 2019

ATHENS, Ohio—The family of an Ohio college student who died after pledging a fraternity is accusing the fraternity of extensive physical and mental hazing.

A lawsuit filed on Thursday, Feb. 14, in Athens County Court says Ohio University student Collin Wiant was beaten with a belt, pelted with eggs, deprived of sleep, and forced to take drugs, and drink a gallon of alcohol in an hour.

The suit, seeking at least $25,000, names both the local chapter of Sigma Pi Fraternity and the fraternity’s Lebanon, Tennessee-based national office.

The lawsuit says the 18-year-old freshman from Dublin died Nov. 12, 2018, of asphyxiation due to the ingestion of nitrous oxide provided to and forced on Wiant by fraternity members.

Jonathan Frost, Sigma Pi’s executive director, declined to comment on the complaint.

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Timothy Piazza of Lebanon, New Jersey, died of head and spleen injuries suffered while drunkenly falling multiple times, including twice down a flight of stairs, during hazing activities at the fraternity house. He was 19 years old.

Authorities have said that the fraternity brothers waited for hours before calling for medical help.

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf signed a new law on Oct. 20, 2018. The new law is raising the maximum penalty for fraternity hazing to a felony, carrying up to seven years in prison.

The law is named, the “Timothy Piazza Anti-Hazing Law” after a Penn State freshman who died during hazing activities at the Beta Theta Pi fraternity house in February 2017.

The Penn State Beta Theta Pi fraternity house where Tim Piazza died. (onwardstate.com)
The Penn State Beta Theta Pi fraternity house where Tim Piazza died. (onwardstate.com)

At least two other hazing-related deaths have occurred in Pennsylvania in the past five years.

Chen “Michael” Deng died in 2013 when he was 19 from injuries received during a hazing ritual by the Baruch College chapter of Pi Delta Psi at a house in the Poconos. Four fraternity members received two-year prison terms and more than 30 others received probation.

Marquise Braham, a student at Penn State’s Altoona campus, committed suicide in 2014 at the age of 18 after allegedly suffering a mental breakdown because of hazing by the Phi Sigma Kappa fraternity.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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