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Deadly alcohol poisoning at WSU frat house was an accident, coroner says

UPDATED: Tue., Dec. 24, 2019

The Whitman County coroner confirmed Monday that Samuel Martinez, a 19-year-old Washington State University freshman, died of acute alcohol intoxication during a party at his fraternity house last month.

Coroner Annie Pillers also determined Martinez’s death on Nov. 12 was an accident, despite questions raised about the time it took his peers to call 911.

Pillers previously said Martinez died at the Alpha Tau Omega house at about 4:30 a.m. and the first 911 call came around 8:30 a.m. from a fraternity member who reported Martinez was unresponsive and people were performing CPR.

WSU suspended recognition of the Alpha Tau Omega chapter pending a school investigation, while other fraternities and sororities in Pullman voluntarily canceled social events they had planned for the semester.

WSU spokesman Phil Weiler said Monday evening he had not received an update on the university’s investigation. A database on the school’s website still listed Alpha Tau Omega as being under “interim suspension.”

The Pullman Police Department also launched an investigation into Martinez’s death. Cmdr. Jake Opgenorth said Tuesday the investigation is still active and declined to comment on its findings. He said detectives are seeking to interview a few remaining witnesses. Many witnesses, he said, have left Pullman for winter break.

Martinez grew up in Bellevue and was studying business entrepreneurship at WSU. In a statement after his death, his family described him as “a beautiful spark of light, a comet that came and went through our lives too quickly.”

Editor’s note: This story was updated on Dec. 24, 2019, to include a comment from the Pullman police commander.

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