Family of VCU student, 19, who died during hazing launch campaign

Family of VCU student, 19, who died during hazing launch campaign 2
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The family of a 19-year-old who died after he was forced to drink a whole bottle of Jack Daniels during a hazing incident last year is launching a campaign to bring awareness to the dangers of hazing – after two other incidents left students dead or severely injured.

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Eric Oakes, the father of late Virginia Commonwealth University student Adam Oakes, has launched the Love Like Adam Foundation to ‘create an awareness of potential dangers students face on college campuses,’ according to its website.

The organization offers high school parents and caregivers information sessions to educate them on ‘how to support their student in making important and safe decisions’ and holds interactive presentations to engage high school seniors.

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‘We need to start reaching out to [students] in middle school and then carry on the messaging into high school and then into college,’ Eric told host Rachel Campos-Duffy on Fox and Friends Weekend Sunday morning.

‘Hopefully, with the awareness that it will bring, they’ll have skills with them, and they’ll be able to see how to get somebody help if they see somebody in jeopardy,’ he said.

‘Knowledge is power,’ Eric continued, adding that students should also recognize when they are going to be hazed and consider ways to get themselves out of dangerous situations.

The organization has already created a team of educators to create a curriculum for middle school, high school and college students, according to President Courtney White, Adam’s cousin, and ‘one of the targets is that bystander intervention.’

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‘If any one person had called for help that night, Adam would still be with us,’ she claimed.

Adam died in February 2021 after allegedly being ordered to drink a large bottle of whiskey during a rush party for the Delta Chi fraternity at Virginia Commonwealth University.

His was one of more than 280 hazing deaths across America over the last 150 years and countless more incidents in which people have ended up hospitalized. 

Eric Oakes, the father of Adam Oakes, right, launched the Love Like Adam Foundation to raise awareness about the dangers of hazing. The organization has already developed a curriculum for middle school through college students, according to Courtney White, right, Adam's cousin, who serves as the president of the organization

Eric Oakes, the father of Adam Oakes, right, launched the Love Like Adam Foundation to raise awareness about the dangers of hazing. The organization has already developed a curriculum for middle school through college students, according to Courtney White, right, Adam’s cousin, who serves as the president of the organization

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Adam Oakes, 19, died in February 2021 after allegedly being ordered to drink a large bottle of whiskey during a rush party for the Delta Chi fraternity at Virginia Commonwealth University

Adam Oakes, 19, died in February 2021 after allegedly being ordered to drink a large bottle of whiskey during a rush party for the Delta Chi fraternity at Virginia Commonwealth University

His death was one of more than 280 hazing-related fatalities across America over the last 150 years. Some of the most recent incidents - dating back to 2011 - are shown above

His death was one of more than 280 hazing-related fatalities across America over the last 150 years. Some of the most recent incidents – dating back to 2011 – are shown above 

Adam was just a freshman at Virginia Commonwealth University when he received a bid to the Delta Chi fraternity and attended a party on February 26, 2021 where he would receive his ‘big brother.’

There, his family claims, he was told to drink a large bottle of whiskey and later passed out on a couch at an off-campus residence.

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He was found dead the next morning, and the office of the chief medical examiner ruled that his death was caused by alcohol poisoning. 

In the aftermath, eight students were charged with unlawful hazing of a student, and four of them were also charged with buying and giving alcohol to a minor. 

Seven were held without bond at the Richmond Justice Center. The eighth was arrested in Prince William County and released on bond. 

Three more people had also been indicted over the death, and 11 witnesses to his death were charged with a Class 1 misdemeanor, according to Northern Virginia Magazine.

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Those 11 individuals could have faced one year in jail, and $2,500 fines each, but were instead ordered to do community service – making presentations at other schools about the dangers of hazing, discussing what happened to Adam and working directly with the Oakes family to explain what they did was wrong.

Meanwhile, the university announced that it would ban alcohol at fraternity and sorority events, publish misconduct instances online and pause new member recruitment.

It also expelled the fraternity in June.

Family members claim Adam was told to drink a large bottle of whiskey and later passed out on a couch at an off-campus residence, where he was found dead the next day. Adam is pictured here with his mother

Family members claim Adam was told to drink a large bottle of whiskey and later passed out on a couch at an off-campus residence, where he was found dead the next day. Adam is pictured here with his mother

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Eight students were later charged with unlawful hazing of a student in connection with Adam's untimely death in February 2021

Eight students were later charged with unlawful hazing of a student in connection with Adam’s untimely death in February 2021

But just nine months after Adam died, Phat Nguyen, 21, also passed away after a brutal night of drinking at the Pi Alpha Phi off-campus fraternity house in East Lansing, Michigan.

He was found passed out in his frat house at Michigan State University covered in vomit and urine along with three other victims who were pledges with Nguyen who were taken to a local hospital but survived.

An autopsy later confirmed that Nguyen died of alcohol intoxication, The State News reports, and the fraternity was suspended from the school. 

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Just last week, three students had been charged in Nguyen’s death.

Ethan Cao, Hoang Pham, and Andrew Nguyen were all charged with one count each of felony hazing resulting in death, and three misdemeanor counts of hazing resulting in physical injury for the three other boys who were also taken to the hospital on the night of the incident but who survived. 

Witnesses say they found Phat in a ‘dirty’ basement room, ‘stripped to his shorts’ with writing on his back.

He was one of four pledges who passed out and had to be taken to the hospital that night – the other three survived despite being found with blood dripping from their noses, and ‘convulsing’. 

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‘We started walking into the basement and before we were down the stairs all the way, the smell of urine hit me. It was really, really strong. The air got really thick,’ an unidentified witness said.

‘It was really gross like you could smell something, and it wasn’t even just urine, it was a mix of something just kind of like vomit.

‘It was a really dirty old room, no furniture, nothing. 

‘The room looked like it was rotting and there were a couple of mattresses on the ground, super dirty.’

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The unnamed person said multiple people knew what was happening and that kids would take turns going down into the basement to look at the unconscious pledges and laugh at them. 

They had the word ‘simp’ written on their backs. 

All three suspects are now due back in court on June 23, after being released on bond. 

Stone Foltz was also killed as a result of excessive drinking at Bowling Green University in Ohio last year.

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He had been forced to drink an entire bottle of bourbon.

Jacob Krinn, 21, and Troy Henricksen, 24, were both charged over his death and are on trial now.

Phat Nguyen, 21, a Michigan State University student also passed away after a brutal night of drinking at the Pi Alpha Phi off-campus fraternity house in East Lansing, Michigan last November

Phat Nguyen, 21, a Michigan State University student also passed away after a brutal night of drinking at the Pi Alpha Phi off-campus fraternity house in East Lansing, Michigan last November

Danny Santulli, 19, also suffered from brain damage caused when he stopped breathing after downing vodka and beer, and then passing out on a couch in his fraternity house.

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Last week, horrifying surveillance footage emerged of  the University of Missouri student being ordered to down a 1.75 liter bottle of Tito’s vodka and being force-fed beer through a tube during a ‘Pledge Dad Reveal Night’ in October 2021.

Surveillance footage obtained by Good Morning America shows Danny and the other pledges being led shirtless and blindfolded down a staircase in the frat house. 

Later, he is force-fed beer through a tube and then he is seen falling backwards, passing out on a table and then slumped on a couch. 

The footage also shows his panicked frat brothers trying to carry him into a car to take him to the hospital once they realized how severe his condition was.  

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By the time he got to hospital, he had stopped breathing for long enough to cause severe brain damage – and he is now blind, unable to walk and unable to speak.

His family previously sued 23 people, including the fraternity, and won their case with an undisclosed settlement but they are now suing two individual frat boys; Sam Gandhi and Alec Wetzler. 

They are also demanding felony charges be brought against the pair. 

Wetzler has been charged with misdemeanor providing alcohol to a minor and he is no longer enrolled at the school, but Gandhi has not been charged and he remains a student. 

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According to the family’s lawsuit, Gandhi saw the dire state Danny was in but did nothing to help until it was too late. 

In October, Danny Santulli, 19, suffered from brain damage when he stopped breathing after downing vodka and beer, and then passing out on a couch in his fraternity house at the University of Missouri

In October, Danny Santulli, 19, suffered from brain damage when he stopped breathing after downing vodka and beer, and then passing out on a couch in his fraternity house at the University of Missouri

Video footage showed Danny slumped half-off of the couch inside the frat house after passing out in October 2021

Video footage showed Danny slumped half-off of the couch inside the frat house after passing out in October 2021

Samuel Gandhi

Alec Wetzler

Samuel Gandhi (left) and Alec Wetzler (right) have been named as defendants now by the family of Danny Santulli, a teenager whose family say was forced to drink until his heart stopped last October during pledge month at Phi Gamma Delta

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Lawmakers in Congress are now mulling legislation that would require any college that receives federal student aid money to collect information and publicly report twice a year about hazing-related misconduct.

The reports must include descriptions of what happened, and any sanctions placed on the organization.

Additionally, the schools must report to campus police and law enforcement authorities within 72 hours of becoming aware of any allegations of hazing that causes serious bodily injury – or could cause serious bodily injury – under the bill. 

Hazing is already a felony crime in 13 states if it causes serious harm or death.

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Those states are Florida, Texas, California, Utah, Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, and New Jersey.

Alaska, Hawaii, New Mexico, South Dakota, Wyoming and Montana do not have any specific hazing laws.

America’s dark hazing history: Fraternity initiation rituals have killed nearly 300 college students since 1838 through alcohol poisoning, drunk driving, beatings and deadly pranks 

America has a long, dark history of college hazing that has seen nearly 300 young students die in accidents while being initiated into Greek life.  

The latest incident to shock the country was the October 2021 hazing of Danny Santulli, a 19-year-old who survived severe alcohol poisoning but is now blind and wheelchair-ridden as a result of it. 

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Danny’s family’s lawyer, David Bianchi, described it as the worst case of hazing injury the country has ever seen. 

‘You can’t be more injured and still be alive,’ he told DailyMail.com this week after filing a lawsuit against two of the frat boys involved. While Danny survived, more than 400 other kids have not. 

There is no official database for hazing deaths or injuries thanks largely to the blanket of secrecy that is immediately thrown on incidents by universities, fraternities and sororities. 

Pledges are loaded into the back of a U-Haul van to be driven to a hazing event at Northwestern University

Pledges are loaded into the back of a U-Haul van to be driven to a hazing event at Northwestern University 

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The closest count to an official tally is that of Hank Nuwer, a journalist who has covered hazing and written multiple books on the topic. 

By his count, there were 281 between 1838 and 2022. 

Three boys died in 2021 after schools reopened following a year-long shutdown thanks to COVID. There were no hazing deaths in 2020 and so far, there have not been any in 2022.  

In recent years, alcohol poisoning deaths have been on the rise. In all three suspected hazing deaths of 2021, the victim died as a result of acute alcohol poisoning. 

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There was a brief gap in hazing deaths in 2020 when college campuses closed as a result of COVID-19.

Now, with more kids rushing back to school, there are fears of an uptick – and experts however say hazing will be harder to police now that more and more kids are taking the rituals off-campus, out of the view of the schools which monitor them. 

A 1905 article from The Albuquerque Evening Citizen details how student Stuart L. Pierson was tied to train tracks and hit by a locomotive in a hazing ritual at Kenyon college

A 1905 article from The Albuquerque Evening Citizen details how student Stuart L. Pierson was tied to train tracks and hit by a locomotive in a hazing ritual at Kenyon college 

Adam Oakes

Phat Nguyen

Adam Oakes (left) died at Virginia Commonwealth University last February as a result of alcohol poisoning. Phat Nguyen (right) died in November at Michigan State University 

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‘It’s all going underground,’ Newar told DailyMail.com. He said the uptick began in 1995 when the tradition of ‘bottle passing’ began. 

It involves a pledge being gifted an entire bottle of alcohol – normally cheap vodka – to finish in one evening. 

Newar’s research – which involves interviews with fraternity brothers and psychologists – reveals that the entire act is underpinned by camaraderie. 

‘There’s denial after the incident that occurs, a blindness among fraternity members just like the government in Bay of Pigs.

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‘If you do something risky enough long enough something bad is going to occur, but they don’t see it coming. Interview after interview I find them surprised and I don’t think it’s faked surprise. 

He said the only way to stop hazing is to stop the tradition of pledging – but colleges and fraternities are hesitant. 

‘These slaps on the wrists are not helping anybody. I think it makes frat members arrogant and thinking. Everybody should have a good time but no one should die for a good time. 

‘In doing the research and talking to people, [it seems] it’s a form of cheap entertainment – it’s a kind of domestic abuse. They call themselves brothers sons dads, it’s in a house.

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‘We have to end pledging – end that power dynamic,’ Nuwer added. 

In another incident in 2019, Western Michigan University student Bailey Broderick was killed when she was struck by a van being driven by a drunk pledge carrying out one of his tasks - ferrying his fraternity brothers around campus

Hunter Hudgins was charged with her death

In another incident in 2019, Western Michigan University student Bailey Broderick was killed when she was struck by a van being driven by a drunk pledge carrying out one of his tasks – ferrying his fraternity brothers around campus. Hunter Hudgins was charged with her death =

Stone Foltz, pictured with his parents, died last year in an alcohol hazing at Bowling Green State University

Stone Foltz, pictured with his parents, died last year in an alcohol hazing at Bowling Green State University 

While alcohol poisoning is a leading cause of hazing death, it is not the only root of the problem. 

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Drum major Robert Champion was beaten to death in 2011 by frat boys taking part in a hazing challenge

Drum major Robert Champion was beaten to death in 2011 by frat boys taking part in a hazing challenge 

Other incidents include that of Stuart Lathrop Pierson, an 18-year-old who died in 1905 after being tied to train tracks as part of a hazing prank at Delta Kappa Epsilon at Kenyon College in Ohio.

A newspaper article from that year has the headline: ‘Was this student hazed to death?’ 

The coroner found that Stuart had either been tied to the tracks or was somehow unable to get away fast enough as a locomotive train approached him. 

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In another incident in 2019, Western Michigan University student Bailey Broderick was killed when she was struck by a van being driven by a drunk pledge carrying out one of his tasks – ferrying his fraternity brothers around campus. 

In 2018, Collin Wiant died from asphyxiation after inhaling nitrous oxide from a whipped cream canister at Sigma Pi. 

Five years earlier, students Marvell Edmondson and Jauwan Holmes both drowned after a night of drinking at Virginia State University. They had attempted to swim in a river. 

Hazing is a felony crime in 13 states if it causes serious harm or death. 

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Those states are Florida, Texas, California, Utah, Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, and New Jersey. 

Alaska, Hawaii, New Mexico, South Dakota, Wyoming and Montana do not have any specific hazing laws.   

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