A state-assembled team will investigate the binge-drinking death of a Louisiana State University student celebrating fraternity pledge week who was too young to buy alcohol legally.
“This young man made a mistake,” said John Kennedy, secretary of the department of Revenue and Taxation, which oversees the state’s Alcoholic Beverage Control board.
“If someone assisted him in making that mistake and broke the law, they’re going to answer for it.”
Kennedy’s announcement Wednesday came on the same day a private funeral Mass was said in suburban New Orleans for Benjamin Wynne, who died of alcohol poisoning the day before.
Preliminary autopsy reports showed the Sigma Alpha Epsilon pledge had a blood-alcohol level of .588 percent, an amount authorities said would have required consuming more than two dozen drinks.
The control board investigation was one of five launched in the wake of the 20-year-old student’s death. The legal drinking age is 21.
The university, campus police, Baton Rouge police and the national chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon are also investigating.
“We want to know who is responsible, who was at the parties, how the alcohol was acquired,” said LSU Chancellor William Jenkins, who attended Wynne’s Mass. He added that police have no evidence the student was forced to drink as part of any hazing ritual.
ABC officials were working with campus police to find out who bought kegs of beer for an off-campus party Wynne attended Monday night and whether a bar where Wynne may also have gone to sold alcohol to underage drinkers.
Wynne, who was majoring in business management, died early Tuesday after campus police received an emergency call from the fraternity house. About a dozen people were found asleep or passed out. Four, including Wynne, were hospitalized.
Two people have been released. The other, Donald Hunt, 21 of Mandeville, remained in intensive care Wednesday and was expected to be hospitalized for the rest of the week.
In Chicago on Wednesday, the American Medical Association said it has instituted a program working with six universities and their surrounding communities to curb binge drinking by changing attitudes, policies and practices.