The family of Collin Wiant, a student at Ohio University, has filed a claim of wrongful death after his hazing-related death. The University has since barred the Sigma Pi fraternity for violations of conduct. A friend of Wiant stated that the fraternity was acting “like a cult.” A video has recently surfaced that shows a Sigma Pi pledge being hazed during a “Blackout Monday.”
Wiant is believed to have died from asphyxiation associated with abusing nitrous oxide. He was found unresponsive in the fraternity house where “whip-it” containers littered the area. This is another incident recently involving hazing that has been the subject of significant public outcry in Ohio and across the country.
The president of Miami University, in Oxford, Ohio, has called the problem “deplorable.” At Miami recently, a student was forced to ingest excessive alcohol then blindfolded and struck approximately 15 times with a wooden paddle. Franklin College Professor Hank Nuwer says that many participants underestimate the potential consequences of such actions.
Prior to Death
Wiant was believed to have endured many weeks of abuse by members of the fraternity. It was reported that he was forced to miss classes and go without sleep, which was diminishing his performance academically. One of Collin's friends stated that fraternity members implied that he would be punished if he reported incidents of hazing. He further explained on the night of the fatality that Collin had gotten a call to come to the fraternity house and said that “he was probably going to get hazed.”
In 2014, the fraternity had been placed on disciplinary probation after a report was made that a blindfolded individual was being hazed at Sigma Pi. The lawsuit was filed in the Athens County Common Pleas Court and it requests a jury trial. The named defendants include Sigma Pi Fraternity's Epsilon Chapter and the international Sigma Pi Fraternity. The allegations suggest that hazing was a routine part of the organization's culture.
Cause of Death
The wrongful death complaint asserts that Wiant was killed after being forced to take “illegal drugs containing nitrous oxide.” This description is said to be based on a toxicology report. Wiant was seen earlier in the evening at the Crystal Bar, a local club, and was described as being fine at that time. At 2:50 a.m. a 911 call was made by a fraternity member to report that Collin was not responding. The dispatcher told the individual to leave Wiant where he was lying until emergency responders arrive.
Nitrous oxide is often referred to as “laughing gas” due to the potential for creating feelings of euphoria. It is used commonly in medical treatment as a pain reliever and is viewed as being fairly safe when used by a healthcare professional. In whipped cream containers, the gas serves to both preserve and propel the contents. Many of those who abuse this substance recreationally are not aware of the potential danger that can result. Abusing such inhalants causes a shortage of oxygen in the brain.