Frat Fatalities: Pledges of Death

Frat DudesAt universities and colleges across the country, each fall season brings a fresh crop of bright-eyed freshmen hoping to pledge their way into fraternities. Getting into the Greek spirit can be fun, but at what cost? Plenty of these rites of passages (perhaps more appropriately called wrongs of passage), have landed these guys in hospitals and worse. Here is the breakdown of the most horrifying frat fatalities and injuries:

Fatalities and Injuries

frat_fireUp in Flames

May 12, 1996: University of North Carolina’s Phi Gamma Delta house went up in smoke after an all night graduation party, killing five and injuring three others. Authorities say the fire was started by “improper use of smoking materials.” What does that mean exactly?


15 Shots of Brandy Too Many

January 1994: A 19-year-old Phi University of Nebraska-Lincoln pledge fell off the third floor of the Phi Gamma Delta house after he had been given 15 shots of brandy and whiskey and six cans of beer.


Frat Boy Rumble

January 16, 2005: At Baldwin-Wallace College in Berea, Ohio student Brent Jones, age 21, died from a fractured skull and enlarged brain caused from hitting a door frame in an altercation with a fellow Sigma Phi Epsilon brother.


Chi Tau Waterworks Stunt Goes Bad

Feb 2, 2005: Matthew Carrington, 21, lost his life to a hazing incident involving the consumption of massive quantities of a normally safe substance: water. The incident occurred at California State University in Chico, CA. Carrington was a Chi Tau Fraternity pledge. The ritual included forcing the pledges to drink five gallons of water, pouring ice water on them and then making them stand in front of air conditioning fans, and doing push-ups while answering trivia questions about the fraternity.


Even in Utah


November 2008: Utah State University, nestled in the beautiful mountains of Logan, Utah is not immune from binge drinking fatalities. 12 members of the Sigma Nu fraternity were charged in connection with the death of Micheal Starks. Starks died after imbibing a lethal amount of alcohol at only 18 years old.


Oven Cleaner?

University of Delaware student Jeffery V. Furek suffered severe burns on his neck and head when caustic oven cleaner was poured over his scalp in a 1980 hazing rite. In 1987 he pressed charges against the university and frat member Joseph Donchez and Furek was awarded $30,000.


Spilled Milk


Commuters on a Arizona freeway got quite the unexpected surprise on September 22, 2008. A group of Arizona State University Arizona State fraternity pledges were challenged to drink a gallon of milk in an hour and needless to say they lost. They lost it all over the freeway if you want to get into semantics. They vomited off the side of a footbridge into the traffic below and caused an accident. A passing motorist slammed on the brakes to avoid the upchuck, causing a woman following behind to rear end the stopped car. Luckily only the pledges prides was injured.



2.1 million: The amount of money in damages caused by frat house fires each year in the US. (National Fire Incident Reporting System) (NFIRS)

150: The number of estimated fires occurring in fraternity and sorority houses each year in the US. (NFIRS)

90: The percent of Fraternity members that reported drinking alcohol within the past 30 days, compared to 65 percent of other students, according to a North Carolina University study.

1: Number of reported fraternity house pet deaths. The Tau Kappa Epsilon house of University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, lost their beloved house dog, Axel, in an arson fire.

1: Estimated number of deaths caused by hazing each year since 1979, according to Hank Nuwer, author of Broken Pledges.



These stories and statistics are alarming to say the least and we learn that although students might be able to get into Ivy League schools, they might not be able to avoid blatantly stupid decisions when challenged by the herd mentality. Online Classes anyone? When you earn your degree online nobody is going to force you to drink ridiculous amounts of water and your chances of dying in a house fire are significantly reduced. Think about it.

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  • That is tragic but they were probably all drunk and hi and weren’t paying attention. So i guess they had it coming sadly.

    Comment by debt relief — June 1, 2009 @ 11:21 am
  • I find it incredibly disgusting that all members of Honorable Fraternities and Sororities around the country are disgraced by the actions of the few. This is why as an upstanding member of an outstanding organization, I am still looked down upon and criticized, because people like you publicize these terrible incidents, but don’t even MENTION the great things done by greeks. Our chapter, for instance led the entire campus with over 1,000 hours of community service. I hope to see a Greek Benefits article soon.

    Comment by Kurbs — June 19, 2009 @ 2:33 pm
  • Thanks for your feedback. If you would like to write an article about some of the great things that are done as a greek from your perspective that would be great. We’re not opposed to the positive, as you can imagine the negative is much easier to research. There are definitely good things done by greeks. I think all organizations are unique and in charge of their own reputation.

    Comment by Brandon Buttars — June 22, 2009 @ 8:24 am
  • I don’t get what everyone is so upset about… they were just pledges.

    Comment by Kate — July 16, 2009 @ 9:46 pm
  • I find it sad to see what the majority of what is said about the Greek life. I am a proud member of my fraternity and I wish that articles posted are slanted to the few bad things that happen. It is quite easy to find out what fraternities due, simply visit any chapter website or the National headquarters. We Greeks raise amazing amounts of money for charities, volunteer in our communities, give support to others via helping with any task needed to make our world a better place. I know chapters that have taken in displaced brothers from other areas such as New Orleans and other disasters without question. This is just a very small list of what we try to do. I simply wish that the majority of people view Greek life as what the media has created. Not all chapters are a “Animal House” the stereotype of the past is that, the past. Greeks have taken a much more “responsible” life. This is not to say that we do have fun and enjoy our college experience. parties, formals, trips, intermural sports, ect. There is a defendant balance and out of the whole Greek community a small group of incidents have skewed the overall view of Greek life. As a side note, our National Headquarters has banned hazing and demeaning activities. If there is a problem, chapters will be closed and or expulsion of the members involved. Any activity that is seen as a problem is simply not tolerated. We have worked for years changing our past and moving into a responsible part of our communities.

    Comment by Nate — July 17, 2009 @ 1:08 am
  • I agree with Nate. I am also a proud member of a fraternity (the nation’s largest) and I cringe every time I see a condemnation of the entire Greek system based on a few anecdotes. This article cites only seven incidents in the past 20 years of fraternity-related injuries or deaths. The uninformed public often picture scenes of young pledges being forced into embarrassing and humiliating situations and made to consume excessive amounts of drugs and alcohol. In truth most, if not all, national fraternities have rules against enforced drug and alcohol use and hazing (deliberately causing discomfort, humiliation, or pain). Chapters that don’t comply with these rules face disciplinary action, including revocation of their charters.
    I find it insulting that people can pick on the Greek system because of the behavior of some people who happen to be Greek. If the people who made pledges drink a gallon of milk were not members of a fraternity, they would simply find other ways to be stupid and mistreat others. Fraternity membership does not lead to irresponsible behavior.
    A great number of things are vastly more dangerous than being in a fraternity. I will try to name a few: riding in a car, driving drunk, abusing drugs, mountaineering, spelunking, skiing, bicycling, smoking cigarettes, being in the military, being homosexual in a red state, and teaching creationism in a blue state all come to mind.
    In short, a few unrelated and disjointed instances do not indicate a system that is in itself a problem. One fraternity-related death per year is sad, yes, but it is minuscule compared to the thousands that are killed each year by (mostly non-fraternity member) drunk drivers.
    Kate Lenhof, if you want to write an exposee of the horrors of the Greek system, you would need to do far more research, and actually find evidence of a system-wide problem. Don’t simply take the easy way out and list a few events and statistics and call it a day.

    Comment by Todd — January 6, 2010 @ 6:02 pm
  • I disagree with your idea that researching negative aspects of fraternity life is easier than finding the positive things done by fraternity members. Visit any national fraternity’s website or any college website to find the lists of good works done by fraternity members. If by research you mean referring to your own preconceived notions of fraternity life (watching Animal House doesn’t count as research), you might need to go back to school. Try joining a fraternity, the more experienced members are an excellent academic resource to any feeble-minded blogger looking for a real education.

    Comment by Todd — January 6, 2010 @ 6:06 pm

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