Rider Student Dies After Frat Drinking Binge; Authorities Investigate If Hazing Was Involved

Friday, March 30th 2007, 6:59 pm
By: News On 6

LAWRENCE, N.J. (AP) _ A Rider University freshman died of alcohol poisoning at a hospital Friday, more than a day after he drank excessively at a party at his fraternity house, authorities said.

Prosecutors and police were investigating whether hazing was involved in the death of 18-year-old Gary DeVercelly. Authorities have removed some items from the Phi Kappa Tau fraternity house and were continuing to interview students Friday, said Casey DeBlasio, a spokeswoman for the Mercer County Prosecutor's Office.

Lawrence Township Police went to the fraternity house early Thursday morning after receiving a report of a student vomiting from drinking alcohol.

DeVercelly, of Long Beach, Calif., was admitted to the intensive care unit of a Trenton hospital. He had been comatose before he died late Friday morning, a hospital spokesman said.

Students at the private university said the entire campus was feeling the shock. Hundreds attended a prayer vigil Thursday night at the university chapel, and the university planned a memorial service on Saturday.

``Rider is such a small community that something like this affects everyone,'' said freshman Nicole Lee, 18.

DeVercelly was a new member of the fraternity. The university is in the midst of a spring pledge season, said Anthony Campbell, Rider's dean of students.

Rider's 15 Greek organizations are expected to register parties with the university and follow campus rules against underage drinking. Wednesday night's party wasn't registered, Campbell said.

Many on campus said the fraternity was known for its Wednesday night parties.

``It's a fun place. You go out there and have a good time,'' said Dave Moore, an 18-year-old freshman.

Phi Kappa Tau members were back in the house on Friday morning. Fraternity members walking in declined to talk to a reporter.

Rider barred the fraternity from holding further events pending the prosecutor's investigation. The fraternity's Oxford, Ohio-based national organization issued a statement expressing regret for DeVercelly's death and said it was waiting for the results of the investigation before deciding whether any sanctions are warranted.

Rider has nearly 5,800 undergraduate and graduate students at its main campus near Trenton and its Westminster Choir College campus in Princeton.