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Penn State booze party turns deadly as sophomore plunges to death

by Ellen Killoran

Fraternity members waited 12 hours to call for help

Police are investigating the death of a 19-year-old Penn State sophomore who died in a fraternity house after falling down a stairwell. A key question in the investigation is why it took his fellow students nearly 12 hours to call for help.

Timothy Piazza, 19, died Saturday from injuries sustained from a fall at the Beta Theta Pi fraternity. According to The Morning Call, the accident occurred on Thursday night at approximately 11 p.m., but an emergency call was not made until 10:49 a.m. on Friday.

According to Fox News, members of the Beta Theta Pi fraternity told police that Piazza had been drinking when he fell down the basement stairs. The Dauphin County Coroner reportedly ruled the death as accidental, but police are continuing to investigate the incident.

“One of our students is gone for no fault of his own, unnaturally. We know that for a fact that he died of trauma,” said State College police Lt. Keith Robb told The Morning Call. “The only thing we can do is do an investigation, follow the evidence and present that evidence to the district attorney and determine if criminal charges are warranted.”

Lt. Robb told the newspaper that investigators are reviewing footage from the home’s 15 surveillance cameras.

The Beta Theta Pi fraternity has been suspended, and the university has banned fraternity social functions effective immediately. A joint statement from Penn State and the Interfraternity Council defined social functions as “any activity sponsored by a chapter or its members, on or off chapter property, where alcohol is present,” adding:

Recent events, including a tragic student death associated with activities in a fraternity house, as well as growing allegations of misconduct in these organizations, including hazing and sexual assault, compel this joint action.

Piazza was from Livingston, New Jersey. He was an engineering student at Penn State, and was a high school athlete, playing on the football and track teams. According to NJ.com, Piazza’s older brother is also a student at Penn State.

 

Photo: Facebook/Remembering Tim Piazza

Ellen is a seasoned journalist and former media & entertainment reporter with a taste for true crime. Formerly a senior editor at IBTimes, her work has appeared in Forbes, Rolling Stone, Maxim, NYMag, Indiewire, and more. She co-produced the HBO documentary "Youth Knows No Pain" and appeared in a documentary series that aired alongside the Lifetime movie "Manson's Lost Girls."