San Diego State freshman died after fall from top bunk, officials say
The 19-year-old San Diego State University freshman who died after an event at one of the school’s fraternities was gravely injured when he fell from his bunk bed, the county medical examiner’s office said Tuesday.
The death has prompted swift action from the university, which on Tuesday announced the creation of two task forces that will focus on student behavior in fraternities and other campus organizations, and on the abuse of alcohol and drugs.
Dylan Hernandez was found in bed without a pulse Thursday morning. Investigators determined that sometime after falling asleep, he fell from his top bunk, suffering unspecified injuries. A roommate helped him back into bed, where he was found, not breathing, hours later.
The teen was taken to a hospital but was declared brain dead the next day, according to the medical examiner’s office. His death was determined to be an accident.
Hernandez had reportedly attended a fraternity event the night before he was found. It’s still unclear whether alcohol was a factor in his death. That question will be answered when toxicology tests are completed.
Many of the university’s fraternities have been disciplined in recent months for behavior that violated the college’s rules. Before Hernandez’s death, six of the fraternities that make up the Interfraternity Council were suspended and four were under investigation.
Hernandez had been pledging to Phi Gamma Delta. Although it’s unclear if the fraternity was among those that had been disciplined, the organization had been placed on probation in 2017 “after being found in violation of regulations pertaining to alcohol at off-campus fraternity events,” the Daily Aztec, the college’s student newspaper, reported.
Rob Caudill, executive director of Phi Gamma Delta, said the fraternity chapter at San Diego State has been suspended while officials work to determine what happened.
“Our highest priority is the safety of our members and anyone associated with our organization, and we have strict risk management policies governing alcohol use and safety concerns,” Caudill said.
After Hernandez was found injured, college President Adela de la Torre suspended all 14 IFC fraternities. On Tuesday, she announced the creation of the two task forces.
Both groups will include students, alumni, faculty and administrators. The committee addressing student behavior will meet throughout the academic year and will be required to submit a report summarizing their findings by April. The group discussing alcohol and drug use will meet into next summer and will put together a report by July 1.
De la Torre hopes to convene the first meetings this month.
“We want to hear from all members of our community and will look forward to engaging many of you within our campus community, as we take decisive action to address these issues which affect us all,” she said in a statement.
College officials previously said that the university’s Police Department was investigating and would determine whether any misconduct occurred.
Hernandez, from Jacksonville, Fla., graduated last year from Bishop Kenny High School, a Catholic college preparatory school with about 1,200 students enrolled in grades 9 to 12. He was part of a senior class that saw 99% of its members go on to college, according to the school’s website.
School officials declined Tuesday to make teachers, students or administrators who knew Hernandez available for interviews.
“Our priority is to respect the privacy of the family and to continue to encourage the BK community to remember the family in prayer,” Sheila Marovich, the director of advancement, said in an email.
Carly Bernardo, a Jacksonville friend of the family, set up a GoFundMe drive to “to raise money to help to create memorials for family and friends as a way to grieve, and remember Dylan for all the lives he was able to touch.”
She described Hernandez as “an outgoing, light-hearted and goofy person who had so much love to give to everyone he met. He never failed to make everyone in the room smile, and his laugh was infectious.”
By late Tuesday afternoon, almost $30,000 had been raised from more than 800 donors. Many described themselves on the fund’s website as San Diego State graduates, students or the parents of fraternity members.
One wrote that she shared a Religious Studies class with Hernandez this semester called “Death, Dying and Afterlife.”
“A lot of us knew him, and it was a very heavy class period,” the classmate wrote. “During a moment of silence for him, a skateboard fell and made a loud noise, which a lot of us took as a sign that he was present and doing OK. His family is in our thoughts.”
Winkley and Wilkens write for the San Diego Union-Tribune.
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