Family sues fraternity in death of NIU freshman after initiation event
BY DAN ROZEK Staff Reporterfirstname.lastname@example.org February 14, 2013 6:30PM
A Northern Illinois University freshman who died after a fraternity initiation party was “coerced” into drinking a dangerous amount of alcohol, a lawyer for his family said.
Relatives of 19-year-old David Bogenberger filed a wrongful death lawsuit Thursday against the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity and 22 students involved in the pledge event that left the Palatine teen dead.
Frat members required Bogenberger and other student pledges to keep drinking vodka during the November 2012 party if they wanted to be accepted into the organization, attorney Peter Coladarci said.
“It’s different than having people over for a cocktail party and opening bottles on the bar so people can drink what they want,” Coladarci said. “They were coerced into drinking — and drinking a lot.”
Bogenberger was found dead on Nov. 2 in the DeKalb fraternity house after the “Mom’s Night” party, according to the lawsuit filed in Cook County.
An autopsy concluded he died of an irregular heartbeat, but it listed alcohol intoxication as a “significant condition” that contributed to his death.
His blood-alcohol level was more than four times the .08 legal limit at which a driver is legally consider drunk, the autopsy found. But Coladarci said other tests indicated Bogenberger’s blood-alcohol level could have reached a level as high as .43 percent.
Several other students who took part in the event reported vomiting or becoming ill, DeKalb police have said.
The students named in the civil lawsuit already are facing criminal hazing charges in DeKalb County for their alleged roles in the party.
Five of the students — all officers of the Pi Kappa Alpha local that hosted the party — have been charged with felony hazing.
The civil lawsuit filed in Cook County also names the local fraternity chapter and the national office of Pi Kappa Alpha as defendants.
“The national organization has a responsibility to provide meaningful training, supervision and oversight to its local chapters so that fraternity members understand that alcohol-related hazing is dangerous and potentially deadly,” Coladarci said.
NIU officials indefinitely suspended the local fraternity chapter after Bogenberger died.