US & Canada

Parents of student poisoned by alcohol describe 'torture' at fraternity

Timothy Piazza (c) is seen in this undated photo. Image copyright ABC
Image caption The parents of Timothy Piazza (C) have called for stiff punishments

The parents of a Pennsylvania State University student who died during an alcohol-fuelled initiation have described their anger to US media.

Timothy Piazza, 19, died after heavily drinking and falling down basement stairs at a campus fraternity, which is a social club for young men.

Police have criminally charged 18 men over their failure to seek medical attention as he lay dying for 12 hours.

"This wasn't 'boys being boys'," Jim Piazza, his father, told NBC News.

"This was men who intended to force-feed lethal amounts of alcohol into other young men," he said, adding that they must be adequately punished.

The college first-year student had been participating in a "pledge" event in February where candidates for the fraternity are required to consume various drinks.

"Nobody should consume that much alcohol. That's torture," said Timothy's mother, Evelyn.

"They basically treated our son as road kill and a ragdoll," Mr Piazza said about the 18 men, who police say attempted to conceal evidence of the hazing event.

What is hazing?

It is an induction ritual meted out typically to new members of the US college men and women's social clubs known as fraternities and sororities, but also to military recruits.

The practice can include physical violence, sexual coercion, forced alcohol consumption, or degrading and dangerous "pranks" such as forcing people to eat vile food mixtures or consume large amounts of water.

It is illegal in most US states, amounting usually to a misdemeanour charge, unless there are serious injuries.

Why is hazing so common?

Surveillance cameras captured footage of the students slapping Piazza and jumping on his unconscious body in order to wake him.

The students did not call police until nearly 12 hours after his injury.

The Piazza family said that they are also upset with the university for not sending a representative to the funeral or wake.

His family also described the moment that doctors told them that their son would not recover from his brain damage.

As he was saying goodbye, Mr Piazza asked a doctor if his son would have survived if he had been brought to hospital earlier.

The doctor told him yes, he recalled.

"They killed him," he said of the fraternity members.

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