These Parents of Frat Hazing Victims Are on a Mission to Prevent Deaths by Sharing Their Devastating Stories
Many parents of hazing victims now travel the country, speaking to pledges and students and urging them to report hazing incidents to prevent serious injuries and death.
The families of seven young men who were injured or died after hazing incidents are speaking out to Inside Edition about their work to educate others about the potentially devastating consequences of such events.
Surveillance video from the night Mary Pat and Tom Santulli’s son Danny was injured shows a rare look at an alcohol-fueled hazing event known as “big brother night” or “pledge dad reveal night” that is common in fraternities across the country.
“They were all told that they had to go down to the basement. I think they were all blind-folded,” Mary Pat told Inside Edition. She says Danny had a liter of vodka taped to his hand.
Cops say Danny’s “pledge dad” pressured him to drink the equivalent of 20 shots, plus a full beer bong. He later went into cardiac arrest from alcohol poisoning. In the surveillance video shared by the family’s attorney, David Bianchi, Danny is seen falling over. He later slid off a couch onto his head.
“They don’t know what to do. They’re afraid to call 911, so they don’t. And they pick him up, they drop him on his head. Surveillance video, you would think, would incentivize these guys not to do this stuff, but they do it anyway,” Bianchi said.
Danny Santulli suffered permanent brain damage and now uses a wheelchair.
“Danny is the most horribly injured fraternity pledge ever in the United States. He’s blind, cannot speak,” Bianchi said.
Jack and Wendy Abele say their son Ryan went through a similar frat hazing ritual at the University of Nevada, Reno.
“It was a ‘big brother reveal night,’ where each of 30 pledges were handed a bottle of booze — a full 750-milliliter bottle of alcohol. In Ryan's case, it was 100-proof, and they were expected to drink the bottle. The goal was also to get them all drunk and vomiting,” Jack Abele said.
Intoxicated, Ryan Abele later died from head trauma after falling down a flight of stairs.
Jim and Evelyn Piazza's son, Timothy, also died after falling down stairs after they say he was told to drink 18 shots in 82 minutes, while pledging a fraternity at Penn State University.
"It's not the same hazing that happened 20, 30 years ago. It is not just streaking and swallowing goldfish. It is hard alcohol. Deadly, hard alcohol,” Evelyn Piazza said.
The Piazzas say the fraternity brothers waited over 12 hours to call 911 to help Timothy.
According to published reports, there have been close to 80 college students who died in hazing incidents connected to Greek life in the past 15 years, with the vast majority related to alcohol abuse.
Just last year, freshman Adam Oakes died from alcohol poisoning, after his “big brother” pressured him to drink a handle of booze in under an hour. As part of a plea agreement, several former members of the now-banned fraternity are speaking out publicly about what happened to Oakes.
“I was charged with misdemeanor hazing, and I think that was an accurate charge on my part, I think. Being the president of the fraternity, I had this position of power, and I chose the wrong path and the wrong road,” one ex-member said.
Video from the talk is part of an upcoming hazing docuseries called “Protect This House.”
Many parents of hazing victims now travel the country, speaking to pledges and students and urging them to report hazing incidents.
Tyler Perino is one of the few to report a hazing incident at Miami University, after he says fraternity brothers hazed him with a bottle of whiskey and a 6-pack and paddled him repeatedly at his “big brother night.”
“I was taken out on a stretcher from my dorm to the ambulance and then taken to the hospital,” Perino said. His blood-alcohol level was nearly three times the legal limit.
“It was the worst nightmare come true. We obviously are very lucky that he’s still here with us,” Perino’s mom, Laura, said.
Laura and Tyler Perino, and the parents who spoke to Inside Edition, want pledges to know that it’s OK to say “no” and walk away. More importantly, they want pledges not to be afraid to call 911 if something goes wrong.
In Danny Santulli’s case, no one called 911, his lawyer says. David Bianchi believes that “Andrew’s Law” in Florida should be enacted nationwide. The law was named after a pledge who died of alcohol poisoning.
“[The law] says that if you are the first person to call 911 after a hazing event, where somebody’s in trouble. Even if you’re the person that did the hazing, even if you’re the one who handed him the bottle of alcohol — if you’re the first one to call 911 to try to save his life or if you’re administering CPR, trying to help him while help is on the way, you will not be prosecuted. You will have immunity,” Bianchi said.
The parents who spoke to Inside Edition say their goal is to educate others about the devastating consequences of fraternity hazing.
“My goal, and many of us parents — our goal — is to speak to college students, to high school students, so that we can raise awareness. We do not want any other families in what is in this club of parents, who have, frankly, lost their child senselessly to hazing. We want to make a difference, we want to educate and we want to make sure this never happens again,” Lianne Kowiak said.
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