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Some questions for Florida and S.C. reporters covering the death of Kyle L. Allen at Presbyterian College

See Hanknuwer.com for the full column

 

Long Excerpt: photos and ending at hanknuwer.com
Fact: While there is no question the death of Kyle Allen at Presbyterian College is a tragedy, it is compounded that a) press coverage has jumped to the conclusion that some athlete simply drank himself to death. There has been no journalistic investigation into the 24 hours preceding Mr. Allen’s demise. As of yet no name or interview with the person who found Allen unconscious (Was CPR attempted?) has been published.  There is no article published addressing WHICH Presbyterian fraternity house where he lay unconscious. There has been no examination of disciplinary records of Kyle’s Pi Kappa Alpha at Presbyterian College.

To be sure, all journalistic inquiries might exonerate the fraternity Pi Kappa Alpha, Presbyterian College, and the coroner, but the hard questions need to be asked.

The questions go on and on. Who or what organization paid for or donated the liquor Mr. Allen consumed? Was the party he attended school approved? Were there minors there from a fraternity, sorority or sports team? Is it atypical for someone to pass out from alcohol at a school party, or is it an ongoing concern? My blog points out, a Pi Kappa Alpha member wrote on his now-removed web site that Presbyterian College overturned a hazing conviction regarding this Mu chapter.

Some facts thus far: a) I’ve seen the quick erasing of Pi Kappa Alpha (Mu Chapter) website fraternity photos (a couple below as an example) by Mr. Allen’s fraternity.  This appears to be a local chapter issue, not one concerning the international fraternity headquarters at this time, although it would be useful to get the fraternity headquarters to release all disciplinary records on this Mu chapter.

Correct me if I am wrong, but isn’t a one-day announcement from a coroner an unusually quick cause-of-death announcement?  Better to   call it a “preliminary” cause of death.

a) RE the quick cause of death. A surprise so soon. For one, deaths in fraternity houses can tend to take days or weeks for a toxicology report.  This one was over and done with in a little over a day with no time to be combed over by an accredited labratory. The coroner is reported as unwilling to release the blood alcohol content level. Why hasn’t a newspaper filed a freedom of information request for the autopsy numbers to make this elected coroner furnish key information the public needs to know?

Experienced coroners look for the obvious and not-so-obvious in possible if unlikely event there was foul play or a pattern of behavior needing to be taken into account following a death.

In this case, Coroner F.G. “Nick” Nichols  of Laurens County, SC (population 69,567) had his conclusion just one day after the body was found. This may be normal operating procedure, but at least a few questions may be asked about that quick turnaround.  What was Mr. Allen’s state of mind prior to the party? Who did he attend with and where were they or he/she as he lay dying?  Were any other students intoxicated and to what degree? Had he ever consumed similar high quantities of alcohol previously? NONE of this is in published news reports by the hundreds the last two days.

Medical Examiner Background of Coroner F.G. “Nick” Nichols: Nichols was a self-employed businessman, having been owner of Nichols Texaco, Nichols Lift Trucks and Nichols Properties Inc. for over 30 years. He retired from these businesses in 2001 and serves full-time as Laurens county coroner.  He is not a medical examiner.  South Carolina: few or no medical degree requirements to be a coroner.

Question for journalists: Has the coroner preserved all fluids and data? Has anyone in government had a higher-up body double-check his findings and autopsy procedures?  Why has no newspaper specifically identified the fraternity house where Allen died? Was it the Pi Kappa Alpha  house or the house of another Greek group? To be sure, reporters have ignored the fraternity membership of Mr. Allen and concentrated solely on his performance as a linebacker and what he meant to his friends and football coach.

Question for journalists: Why has no Florida or South Carolina journalist interviewed local Clinton, SC police to get their collected take on prior calls to them concerning this particular Pi Kappa Alpha chapter? To date, I’ve seen no interviews with neighbors of Pi Kappa Alpha in Clinton, SC. What was Mr. Allen’s experience like as a pledge as Pi Kappa Alpha as members wearing camouflage outfits and painted faces put him through their pledgeship period? What do Greek officials have to say about their reversal of hazing investigation findings? About the death itself? Will there be a disciplinary hearing? How safe, really, are parties of  social organizations at this college?

By Hank Nuwer

Hank Nuwer is the Indiana-based author of Broken Pledges: The Deadly Rite of Hazing, High School Hazing, Wrongs of Passage and The Hazing Reader. He has written articles or columns on hazing for the Sunday Times of India, Toronto Globe & Mail, Harper's Magazine, Orlando Sentinel, The Chronicle of Higher Education and the New York Times Sunday Magazine. His new book is Hazing: Destroying Young Lives from Indiana University Press.

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