A West Virginia University freshman who died at a fraternity house in November had a blood alcohol level of 0.49, police said Tuesday.
Nolan Burch, 18, was one of 20 Kappa Sigma pledges attending an initiation ritual on Nov. 12, 2014, when he was blindfolded and taken to another location where he consumed a large amount of liquor, according to a news release from Morgantown police.
Burch was later taken back to the Kappa Sigma house "due to his very high level of intoxication and was laid on a table," police said. According to the release, fraternity members noticed Burch's face had turned blue and they could not detect a pulse. They called 911 at 11:50 p.m, and Burch was taken to a hospital where he died. Burch's BAC at the time of his death was six times the state limit for drinking and driving (for those of legal drinking age).
"West Virginia University remains committed to transforming the culture on its campus," the university said in a statement Tuesday. "Led by our student leadership, the University continues to work toward a meaningful change that will create a positive impact on our campus and local communities. " The school declined to say if it had identified any individual students who might be held accountable for the events that led to Burch's death.
The afternoon of the initiation event, Burch tweeted:
It's about to be a very eventful night to say the least
— Nolan Burch (@NolanBurch9) November 12, 2014
The national fraternity said the WVU chapter of Kappa Sigma had lost its charter on Nov. 10 -- prior to the night Burch died -- for previous, unrelated violations of the organization's code of conduct.
"When a chapter's operations are suspended and/or closed, the chapter is directed to no longer host or otherwise participate in any functions associated with the fraternity," said Derald Dryman, spokesman for the Kappa Sigma national fraternity. "The events that took place the night of Nov. 12, 2014 were after the chapter had been informed of their closing and therefore not approved or otherwise supported by the Fraternity."
Dryan added the Burch family "and all the young men and women affected by this tragic event remain in our thoughts and prayers."
The case is now in the hands of the Monongalia County prosecutors office, police said, which will decide whether to bring any criminal charges. The medical examiner's report is also still pending.
Burch's death capped a string of problems in Greek life at WVU. His untimely death last fall prompted the university to halt all Greek life activities. The university only allowed fraternities to resume social events and recruitment this month if they signed on to new rules that require them to host dry and philanthropic events, as well as submit plans for chapter activities to administrators.
Only a week after Burch's death, six Sigma Chi members were cited for hazing. Police said Sigma Chi took 19 under-age pledges to get drunk at a nightclub, dropped them off in another neighborhood, and then told them to work together to get back to the fraternity house. Police threatened obstruction of justice charges for pledges who initially identified themselves as members of another fraternity, Tau Kappa Epsilon.
In the 2012-13 year, WVU kicked Phi Kappa Psi off campus for hazing after a student said he suffered a concussion and needed stitches as a result of one incident.