Tuesday, June 02, 2009

UW Sigma Chi Falls from 3rd Story Window

Quote of the Day:
Seattle police, who have not released the student's name, say drinking played a role in the fall at the Sigma Chi fraternity about 11:39 p.m. Thursday.

"The guy's an adult; he's 22 years old," police spokeswoman Renee Witt said. "It's not against the law to be under the influence and fall and hurt yourself."

Student seriously injured in fall from third-floor window at UW fraternity

By Lewis Kamb
Seattle Times staff reporter

An apparently drunken fall from a third-story window at a University of Washington fraternity house late Thursday - the latest in a series of student falls over the years - left a 22-year-old hospitalized and in serious condition Friday.

Meantime, university and Greek-system officials said they've been working for months to spread the word about student safety to prevent such accidents.

"There's always going to be accidents," said Cori Hammock, Greek adviser to the UW's Interfraternity Council and Panhellenic Association. "But we do feel we're doing an adequate job at being proactive when it comes to student safety."

Seattle police, who have not released the student's name, say drinking played a role in the fall at the Sigma Chi fraternity about 11:39 p.m. Thursday.

"The guy's an adult; he's 22 years old," police spokeswoman Renee Witt said. "It's not against the law to be under the influence and fall and hurt yourself."

The student had been sitting on a third-floor window ledge at the house at Northeast 45th Street and 18th Avenue Northeast before falling to the ground below. Medics treated the man for serious injuries on the scene, then took him to Harborview Medical Center.

A hospital spokeswoman said Friday she couldn't release information about the unidentified man's condition, although several Sigma Chi fraternity members said Friday afternoon his condition was improving at the hospital. Beyond that, the fraternity brothers had little to say. A printout taped to the house's front door Friday read: "Chapter House Closed to All Non-Members. Thank you for your courtesy." The fraternity's chapter president did not return calls Friday.

Witt, the police spokeswoman, said police could do little more than chalk up the incident as an accident.

"If he'd been underage, that's a different story. We could've possibly worked with the university to address the issue," she said.

UW and Greek officials say they've been working on safety at fraternity houses and other student housing over the past year, in part because of a spate of similar accidents.

Since the mid-1980s, at least six male students between 18 and 21 have died after falling from fraternity houses or dorms. At least five others have suffered broken necks or other serious injuries.

Since last summer, when 21-year-old Kevin MacDonald died after a fall from a third-floor window at the Alpha Sigma Phi fraternity, UW officials said they've sought to minimize such accidents through outreach efforts.

Safety and security "certainly is a priority for those houses, a primary goal," said Lincoln Johnson, the UW's associate provost for campus life.

In recent months, officials have raised safety "during every conversation" with Greek leaders, he said. They also sent a letter to all houses in the UW's Greek system, encouraging them to work with their insurance companies to address safety issues, Johnson said.

But, as fraternity and sorority houses are private organizations that operate outside the university, "we can only do so much," he added.

Bryan Weiser, a UW junior and vice president of risk management for the Interfraternity Council, said his organization recently put together a "crisis-management plan" as a resource. The council also will work with Sigma Chi "to find out exactly what happened and figure out the next steps."

"I've heard that he's going to be OK," Weiser added of the injured student. "Of course, we hope so."


Injuries, deaths of UW students from falls

By Seattle Times staff

June 2008: Kevin MacDonald, 21, a junior, died after falling from a third-floor window at the Alpha Sigma Phi fraternity. A fraternity brother told police MacDonald had returned home at 3 a.m.

May 2008: A 20-year-old student was hospitalized after falling from the roof of the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity. He said he'd gone there to see the sunrise. Police found an empty whiskey bottle and beer cans nearby. After talking to fraternity brothers, police determined the man was intoxicated.

April 2005: Erik Anderson, 19, a freshman, fractured his wrists, arms, pelvis and spine after falling 45 feet out a window from his bunk bed in the Delta Upsilon fraternity. A pending lawsuit claims he'd been drinking at an unauthorized fraternity party before the fall.

May 2002: Brett Jensen, 19, a sophomore, died after falling 30 feet from the deck of the Pi Kappa Phi fraternity. He'd been drinking at a fraternity party, in which the goal was to down a shot of beer every minute for 100 minutes.

March 2001: Greg Gilbert, 18, a freshman, died after falling from the balcony of the McMahon Hall dormitory. Resident advisers described the death as alcohol-related.

October 1996: Billy Price, 19, a freshman, broke his neck after apparently falling from a third-floor window at the Alpha Delta Phi fraternity. Price can't remember the fall. He said he'd been drinking at a fraternity-sorority party but wasn't drunk.

December 1987: Bryan Foisy, 19, a sophomore, fell to his death from a 10th-floor balcony at McMahon Hall after midnight. Police said several students witnessed Foisy jump and that they had reason to believe drugs were involved.

September 1987: Brian Lopez, 18, a freshman, died after three days as a pledge at the Beta Theta Pi fraternity after falling from the roof. He lived on the "pledge porch," which opened out to the rooftop. Excessive drinking was not the cause of the accident, police said.

May 1986: Thomas White Jr., 19, fell to his death from a third-floor bedroom window at the Alpha Delta Phi fraternity after attending a fraternity party. An autopsy found he had a blood-alcohol level of 0.06, less than the level to be considered legally drunk. Police said White was known to sleepwalk.

January 1986: Erik Heimbigner, 20, fell 20 feet from a fire escape at the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity and suffered multiple injuries. He had been drinking at the fraternity, attorneys agreed in a subsequent lawsuit.

December 1985: Chad Houck, 18, suffered critical neck, head and back injuries after falling 57 feet down an elevator shaft at the Haggett Hall dorm. The elevator, which had stopped midfloor, was filled with partying students who pried open the door and were jumping to the building lobby.

Source: Seattle Police Department reports; Seattle Times news archives


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