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Indiana State University Freshman Dies During Fraternity Event

Steve Wagner

A member of Indiana State University’s chapter of Sigma Chi fraternity died early Sunday morning as a result of a water-related incident in Dennison, Illinois. 18-year-old Yiorgo Karnezis was taking part in a Sigma Chi social event in rural Clark County when he fell out of a small boat into a private pond. Clark County Sheriff’s department, Marshall Fire, Marshall Ambulance, and the Paris, Illinois Fire Department and Dive team assisted in recovering the victim from the pond. Yiorgo Karnezis was later pronounced dead at Terre Haute Regional Hospital.

As part of university process, all Sigma Chi operations have been suspended while an investigation is conducted.

Deaths at Social Events Not Limited to Fraternities

The death of Yiorgo Karnezis has not been classified as hazing or alcohol-related at this time. Unfortunately, many fraternity deaths across the United States have been attributed to one or both of those causes. While fraternities and athletics are often at the center of high-profile wrongful death cases, the reality is that college-aged students are at-risk regardless of organizational participation (or lack thereof). Over 1800 college students aged 18-24 die from unintentional alcohol-related accidents each year.

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism highlights some facts about alcohol-related deaths on college campuses, and some of them seem counterintuitive. For example, binge drinking has been decreasing among college students, and most freshmen arrive on campus with healthy attitudes about drinking and alcohol. Still, alcohol-related hospitalizations of college students are up 70%.

Hazing deaths also usually involve alcohol. More than 80% of all hazing deaths in the United States are alcohol-related. Hazing still happens on many college campuses despite 44 states having anti-hazing laws and colleges cracking down hard on violators. Many national fraternities have adopted zero tolerance policies for hazing, including Sigma Chi. Still, there continues to be at least one hazing-related death and numerous injuries each year.

Peer Expectations Are Dangerous on Campus

Health experts say one of the reasons serious injuries and death continue to occur on college campuses is younger students’ desire to live up to the expectations of upperclassmen. This can be particularly dangerous in organizations like fraternities. Between the intense desire of freshmen to belong and the images made popular by movies like Animal House, there can be intense pressure to engage in risky, sometimes lethal behavior.

A study of fraternity insurance claims paint a picture of multiple dangers impacting the lives of young people on campus. Only 7% of claims were related to hazing liability. Nearly a quarter of fraternity liability claims dealt with assault and battery, with the remaining cases comprised 15% of sexual assault claims, 10% slip and fall, 9% fall from heights, and 7% auto accidents.

The number of young people’s lives destroyed or permanently altered as a result of college-based accidents is far too high. Alcohol and peer pressure create a dangerous situation for many college students, and hazing adds another dimension for those looking to join a team, fraternity, sorority, or other organization. If your college-aged child has been seriously injured in an accident you believe happened due to the negligent, reckless, or intentional behavior of another, the personal injury attorneys at Wagner Reese will ensure you understand your legal options and will fight for the compensation you deserve to take care of your loved one. Call us today for a free consultation at (888) 204-8440.


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