Friday, March 30, 2007

Fraternity Man at Rider Dies from Alcohol & Possible Hazing

Rider student dies after binge drinking

LAWRENCE -- Gary DeVercelly, the Rider University freshman left comatose after a night of binge drinking at a campus fraternity house, died Friday morning at a Trenton hospital, authorities from the Mercer County Prosecutor's Office have confirmed.

The parents of the 18-year-old student -- having flown to New Jersey from the family's home in Long Beach, Calif., as soon as they learned of their son's condition -- were at his side when he died in the intensive care unit at Capital Health System at Fuld hospital, authorities said.

Authorities said Friday morning that detectives from Lawrence Township police and the Mercer County Prosecutor's Office are continuing their investigation of whether fraternity hazing played any role in DeVercelly's death.

DeVercelly, known on campus by his nickname "Cali," and a second freshman, William A. Williams, 19, both were rushed by ambulance to the hospital to be treated for alcohol poisoning after they collapsed inside the Phi Kappa Tau fraternity house shortly before 2 a.m. Thursday.

DeVercelly reportedly drank more than half-a-bottle of vodka in just 15 minutes while partying at the fraternity house. Rescue personnel found DeVercelly in cardiac arrest and used CPR to revive him before transporting him to the hospital.

Williams was released from the hospital Thursday afternoon following his treatment.
Authorities said interviews are still ongoing with students who were at the fraternity house when DeVercelly and Williams collapsed.

Late Thursday night, more than 300 students attended a prayer service for DeVercelly at Rider's Gill Memorial Chapel.

On Friday, the crime scene tape was removed from around the building and fraternity members were finally allowed back inside.

Rider University officials said DeVercelly's parents plan to release a statement about their son sometime Friday afternoon.
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Lawrence Ledger (New Jersey)
WEB UPDATE: March 30, 2007

Rider student dies in binge drinking incident

Gary DeVercelly, a freshman at Rider University, died Friday morning after being admitted to the hospital Thursday after heavy drinking.

Gary DeVercelly, an 18-year-old freshman at Rider University in Lawrence Township, died at 10:50 a.m. Friday at Capital Health System's Fuld Campus, according to Casey DeBlasio, a spokesperson for the Mercer County prosecutor's office.

As of Friday afternoon, no official cause of death had been announced, Ms. DeBlasio said. The Mercer County prosecutor's office and the Lawrence Township Police Department were investigating the possibility that the incident had been the result of a hazing at a Rider fraternity.

Mordechai Rozanski, president of Rider University, issued a statement, calling Mr. DeVercelly's death "tragic."

"I know I speak for the entire Rider community when I extend my heartfelt sympathy to Gary's family," he said in the statement.

Lawrence police were dispatched to the Phi Kappa Tau fraternity house at Rider's Lawrence campus at 1:52 a.m. Thursday on the report of an individual who was vomiting from drinking alcohol and needed to go to the hospital, according to a statement released by the prosecutor's office.

Mr. DeVercelly, of Long Beach, Calif., was transported to Capital Health System's Fuld Campus, where he was listed in critical condition until the time of his death.

A second university student who had left the Phi Kappa Tau fratnernity house earlier in the evening was also taken to the hospital and treated for alcohol poisoning. He has since been released.

A memorial service for freshman Gary DeVercelly, a business administration major from Long Beach, Calif., will be held on campus Saturday afternoon at 2 p.m. in Gill Chapel. President Mordechai Rozanski met with members of the media during a Friday afternoon press conference in front of the Moore Library steps.

Alcohol abuse "is something that we must all fight against through education, and we must trust in our educational system because the majority of our students of this campus and elsewhere understand they are responsible,” Rozanski said. “Tragedies occur-this is a tragedy. It’s viewed as an extraordinary situation.”

DeVercelly and Williams are “associate members” of PKT, said a University official, which indicates they are going through an initiation process to join the Greek organization. The terms “associate member” and “associate member process” are more commonly known as a “pledge” and the “pledge process.”

According to Rider’s code of conduct, The Source, “any action or situation which recklessly or intentionally risks the mental, psychological or physical well-being of a student with or without his consent; which requires or encourages violation of public law or University policy; or which may tend to ridicule, mistreat, humiliate, or harass any individual” is prohibited.

Several students on the Lawrenceville campus voiced general disapproval of hazing.
“I don’t think you should have to injure yourself for a position to join a sorority or frat,” said freshman Danielle Jarrett.

PKT’s national Web site states, “Hazing has no place in the character-building process and will not be tolerated by the fraternity. Chapters and brothers who haze will be held accountable for their actions at every level.”

The fraternity’s Mid-Atlantic Domain Director Scott Brown visited yesterday with members of Rider’s chapter, Delta Psi, and University officials, said a statement on the national fraternity’s Web site.

Many students on the Lawrenceville campus were instructed by University officials on Thursday not to comment to the media about anything surrounding the situation. Director of Greek Life Ada Badgley instructed members of Greek organizations to remain silent, while Residence Life prohibited resident advisors and residence directors from talking to the media.

Campbell said the University’s addressing of the situation, and moving forward, will be contingent on the investigation.

“We have to wait until the investigation comes through and then we make decisions based on the facts and information we have,” said Campbell.