Friday, January 21, 2011

Student Found Not Breathing at IU Fraternity House

Events leading up to IU student's death being investigated

By Abby Tonsing, Herald-Times, Bloomington, Ind.

Following the death of an Indiana University sophomore, campus police are working with the coroner's office to establish a timeline of events leading up to the discovery of the student, found unconscious and not breathing at the Phi Sigma Kappa fraternity house. Officials are also waiting on toxicology reports to determine if drugs or alcohol played a role in his death.

Brian Macken, 19, of Riverside, Conn., died at Bloomington Hospital late Tuesday night, four days after he was discovered not breathing on a couch in a common area of the fraternity house on North Jordan Avenue. Macken had been at Bloomington Hospital in critical care since Friday afternoon, after emergency responders revived him at the fraternity with CPR.

An autopsy for Macken has been scheduled for 8 a.m. today in Terre Haute, according to Monroe County coroner Nicole Meyer. Results from toxicology tests may take weeks, she said.

Macken died at 11:03 p.m. Tuesday, according to Meyer. University officials had cited an earlier, incorrect time of death.

He was a sophomore, and student records show he planned on studying economics, according to Larry MacIntyre, assistant vice president of university communications. Macken did not take classes the fall semester of the current school year, but had started again when the second semester began last week.

"So he had only been in that dorm for five days," MacIntyre said in a phone interview.

Macken, who was not a member of Phi Sigma Kappa, had gone from his dorm room in Briscoe to visit friends Thursday night at the fraternity house. At some point, he went back to his dorm room, only to return to the fraternity house, where he spent the night, according to campus police.

Macken was discovered by a member of the fraternity after 2 p.m. Friday afternoon. Police found he had vomited at some point.

The same day, police searched Macken's room at Briscoe, where there were signs of "apparent drug use in the dorm," according to Indiana University Police Chief Keith Cash. Police also seized Macken's laptop and cell phone. Investigators "want to develop a timeline of everything he'd done prior to that event," Cash said.

The same day, executive team members with the Interfraternity Council, the Panhellenic Association and all chapter presidents met and voted unanimously to postpone greek social events indefinitely. All paired social events between fraternities and sororities, such as dinners and formals, and all large-scale fraternity parties have been canceled indefinitely.

Steve Veldkap, IU's assistant dean of students, said he was proud of the response of the greek community. "In the short term, we think it is a reflection of student leaders expressing their care and concern for a fellow student," he said in an e-mail.

Cash said the only previous encounter campus police had with Macken was a "simple alcohol arrest" in April of last year. According to online court records, Macken faced misdemeanor charges of public intoxication and illegal consumption of alcohol on April 27, 2010, and was deemed eligible for the pretrial diversion program two days later.

University officials expressed their condolences to Macken's family Wednesday.

"We have all been saddened by the loss of one of our students, and we have extended our heartfelt condolences to Brian's family members who have been at his side at the hospital for the past few days," Dean of Students Harold "Pete" Goldsmith said in a prepared statement. "This is a tragedy, and we are attempting to determine exactly what happened, primarily with a view to ensure that nothing like this ever occurs again."

Goldsmith said in the statement that Macken's professors and the students who knew him were being notified personally of his death.

"We will be working closely with students from the fraternity and residence halls who have been impacted by Brian's untimely death," Goldsmith continued.

Goldsmith, who visited with Macken's family at the hospital, reiterated their desire for privacy at this time.

The dean described Macken as a very likeable, affable person. "I know that he had a lot of friends," Goldsmith said. "And they were very concerned for him and visited with the family at the hospital."

Goldsmith said plans are also in the works for the university to organize a memorial service for students, faculty and staff members who have died in the past year. This new event may be scheduled in March or April. Macken's family has been invited to remember him at such a memorial.

At the completion of the IU police investigation, Goldsmith said, his office will review the circumstances of the incident to determine if any university policies on alcohol and drug use were violated.

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