The family of a Cal State Northridge fraternity pledge who collapsed and eventually died after a hike in the Angeles National Forest is blaming the student’s death on hazing.
Maria Castañeda, who identified herself as Armando Villa's aunt, told KABC TV Channel 7 that the 19-year-old had gone hiking as part of a fraternity function and that he was barefoot when he was found by a ranger Tuesday.
FOR THE RECORD
An earlier version of this post incorrectly spelled Armando Villa's first name as Aramando.
The victim went hiking with friends off Big Tujunga Canyon Road and "passed out along the trail after they apparently ran out of water" about 5:30 p.m., Los Angeles County sheriff's spokeswoman Nicole Nishida said.
On Wednesday, Villa’s aunt told NBC4 that other men who were with him that day said the group was "left barefoot with very little water to share between the boys, and no cellphones, and to find their way out of the forest."
When he was found, Villa’s feet were cut and blistered, relatives told The Times.
Castañeda said it was supposed to be the final hazing event before the pledges were accepted into the fraternity, adding that she wants the other men on the trip with him to come forward.
"The men in charge of this fraternity, you know the ones that left them there.... They left him there to die," Castañeda told NBC4.
A ranger found Villa and the other men stranded in the forest. Villa was taken to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead. Nishida said the victim may have "suffered from heat exhaustion or heatstroke" but that the cause of death would be determined by investigators.
The university has suspended all Pi Kappa Phi fraternity activities while an administrative investigation of the incident is carried out.
Villa was a Sylmar resident and was scheduled to start his second year at the university in August.
"It is indeed a tragedy when someone that young dies," school spokeswoman Carmen Ramos Chandler said.
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