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The unofficial Sigma Pi annex house, 45 Mill St.

Lawsuit filed in death of Ohio University fraternity pledge

The parents of Ohio University freshman Collin Wiant have filed a wrongful death suit against the fraternity he joined shortly before his death.

Wiant died Nov. 12 of asphyxiation due to consumption of nitrous oxide, or “whippets,” according to the suit, which alleges Sigma Pi fraternity brothers forced him to take the drugs.

The lawsuit also alleges that Wiant was deprived of sleep, beaten with a belt, forced to beat others with a belt, punched, pelted with eggs, forced to take drugs and forced to drink a gallon of alcohol in 60 minutes.

“The hazing caused bodily injury, emotional distress, and ultimately, Collin Wiant’s death,” the complaint reads.

The Epsilon chapter of Sigma Pi, the national organization and 10 unknown people are defendants in the case. Attorney Rex Elliott said the family filed the suit to shine a light on wrongdoing and prevent other families from experiencing the pain they have.

“We sit here in 2018 and 2019 and we still have out-of-control fraternities running amok, hazing young college students to the point of injuries or, in this case, death,” Elliott said. “This isn’t the ‘70s and ‘80s anymore, and the fact that this is still going on is appalling.”

Ohio University issued a cease and desist order to the Epsilon chapter of Sigma Pi. OU Spokeswoman Carly Leatherwood said an investigation into the fraternity’s actions are ongoing. She did not say when that investigation might be completed.

“This is a very sad situation, and our hearts go out to Collin’s family and friends who have been impacted by this tragic loss,” Leatherwood said in an email.

The alleged hazing

The Epsilon chapter of Sigma Pi has an unofficial annex house at 45 Mill St. Inside that house, according to the suit, is a room called the “fun room” or “education room” where much of the hazing took place.

“The ‘Fun Room’ or ‘Education Room’ was riddled with holes in the wall, egg shells all over the floor, and pillow cases that were used for some unknown purpose,” Elliott wrote in the complaint.

Wiant was forced to do tasks for older members of the fraternity, according to the suit. Those tasked included doing laundry, cleaning The J Bar after hours and being available at all hours of the day. He allegedly missed many classes and went without sleep.

The fraternity provided pledges with or forced pledges to take cocaine, marijuana, Adderall, Xanax and alcohol, according to the suit. At one point, Wiant and the other pledges were allegedly locked inside the bedroom of fraternity President Elijah Wahib’s bedroom and forced to drink a gallon of alcohol in an hour.

The pledges were also allegedly forced to “play football” inside the annex house, tackling and hitting each other without any protective gear.

The hazing took a toll on Wiant’s academic performance and mental and physical health, according to the suit.

Wiant’s death

Wiant went out drinking at The Crystal and The J Bar on the night of Nov. 11, but witnesses said he was “acting normal,” according to the suit. He left for 45 Mill St. at about 2 a.m. and allegedly said, “I know I’m going to get hazed.”

A fraternity member called 911 at about 2:50 a.m. and said Wiant was unresponsive. He died in the house before the ambulance arrived and was found surrounded by drug paraphernalia and canisters of nitrous oxide.

Fraternity brothers provided Wiant with the nitrous oxide or forced him to take it, according to the suit.

Hours later, the chapter called for an “emergency meeting” to initiate pledges as full members of the fraternity, according to the suit. The meeting was allegedly intended to “close ranks” for fraternity members.

“I think … the fact that this fraternity, hours after Collin was found in their house dead, decided to convene a meeting to initiate pledges and get their story straight is about as shocking and disgusting as it gets,” Elliott said.

Wiant’s parents filed the lawsuit on counts of violation of Ohio’s anti-hazing laws, negligence, civil conspiracy, negligent supervision, and intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress.

The parents have demanded a jury trial. The amount of damages owed to the parents would be determined at trial.

Sigma Pi Fraternity Executive Director and CEO Jonathan Frost declined to comment, saying the organization has not yet been served with a lawsuit.


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