The trial of 18 Penn State fraternity members in the tragic wrongful death of 19-year-old Timothy Piazza paints a horrific picture of the night he died. Piazza’s death stoked a firestorm in the media due to the circumstances that led to his death as well as the attempted cover-up by fraternity members.
Security footage from the night of his fatal injuries shows the young man participating in a drinking “gauntlet,” traveling between several stations throughout the Beta Theta Pi fraternity house and consuming copious amounts of beer, wine and liquor. After the fact, it was discovered that Piazza’s blood alcohol concentration was around 0.4, an almost fatal amount of alcohol.
Soon after the gauntlet, Piazza appears clearly intoxicated, stumbling around the house. It is not long before he vanishes from view, tumbling down a set of stairs into the basement around 11:22 pm. The fall caused the first of Piazza’s several traumatic brain injuries as well as a fracture at the base of his skull.
He was discovered by other fraternity members early the next morning. Footage shows brothers and pledges carrying him into the living room and putting him on a couch. The footage clearly shows serious injuries, including a large bruise on his abdomen. Instead of calling 911, the fraternity members and pledges laid him on a couch with a heavy backpack on, to prevent him from drowning in his own vomit. As he lay there, people poured liquid on him, slapped him and even threw shoes at him in attempts to awaken him. As this happened, the party continued around him.
The cameras show several attempts by Piazza to struggle to his feet, but his attempts only led to more falls and more brain injuries. At one point, a fraternity member covered him with a blanket, and others stepped over his body throughout the night.
By the time 911 was called, Piazza had been injured for nearly 12 hours. He died two days later at the hospital.
Since Piazza’s death, Beta Theta Pi has been banned from Penn State due to a persistent pattern of underage drinking, drug use and hazing in violation of Pennsylvania law. His death outlines the serious possibilities of injury and death when alcohol is provided to minors and when hazing occurs.