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Washington State University fraternity death marks 4th campus fatality in a month

Posted at 9:17 AM, Nov 13, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-13 11:17:56-05

All social events for fraternities and sororities were suspended at Washington State University after the death Tuesday of a student possibly tied to alcohol. It's the second fraternity-related death in the past week and the fourth college campus death in the United States in the past month.

Nearly 2,000 college students die each year from alcohol-related injuries, including car crashes, according to government researchers. In addition to Washington State, fraternity-connected deaths have occurred in San Diego, New York and Pennsylvania in recent weeks, prompting a crackdown by school officials, CBS News correspondent Jamie Yuccas reports.

Police are still investigating what happened at the Alpha Tau Omega house off the Washington State University campus where they received an emergency call early Tuesday morning. Medics arrived to find 19-year-old fraternity member Sam Martinez unconscious. Police said a preliminary investigation indicated that his death could be alcohol related.

"There is a cultural problem," said Franklin College Professor Hank Nuwer, who has studied fraternity drinking trends for decades. "When the deaths occur, it's often because they not only want to drink with the members, they want to out-drink them to show off."

Martinez's death comes days after 14 fraternities were suspended at San Diego State University, which followed the death of 19-year-old freshman Dylan Hernandez who fell out of his bunk bed in his dorm room and hit his head late last week. Several students say Hernandez had been drinking heavily at a fraternity party.

In October, Penn State suspended the Chi Phi fraternity as it investigates the death of a 17-year-old who was at an off-campus house allegedly occupied by frat members. Weeks later, Cornell University in New York decried a "pattern of misconduct" after the death of a student who earlier attended a fraternity event.

"You start wondering if sending your freshmen to college is going to be a dangerous task and not something that you look forward to as a parent," Nuwer said.

The Washington State fraternity's national organization offered condolences to Martinez's family. It said it's working with law enforcement and the university in their investigation. Meanwhile, San Diego State has announced a task force to review behaviors and procedures at the school's Greek organizations.