MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (KDKA) — The Morgantown Police Department is releasing new details today in the investigation into the death of West Virginia University student who was pledging a fraternity that has since lost its charter.
According to police, medical tests now show 18-year-old Nolan Burch of Buffalo, New York, had a blood alcohol level of 0.493 at the time of his death.
Burch passed away in November after being found unresponsive at the Kappa Sigma frat house. He was rushed to Ruby Memorial Hospital, but died a day later in the intensive care unit.
In their investigation into the events leading up to Burch’s death, police say they conducted numerous interviews and reviewed surveillance video from security cameras.
Morgantown Police say Burch and 19 of his fellow pledges had been summoned to the fraternity house earlier in the day to take part in an initiation ritual.
Police say the event is referred to as “Big-Little.”
According to police, the pledges were blindfolded and led to another location where they were presented to the ‘Big,’ who is a senior member or alumnus of the fraternity. That person then gives the pledge a bottle alcohol.
Investigators say “Burch consumed a large quantity of alcohol” and was then taken back to the frat house, laid on a table and was later unresponsive found by another fraternity member.
He was not breathing, had no pulse and had a “blue coloration.”
The investigation is now under review by the Monongalia County Prosecutors Office. Meanwhile, the Medical Examiner’s Report is still pending, police said.
Days before Burch’s death, Kappa Sigma had their charter pulled by the national fraternity, and was no longer a recognized fraternity or student organization at West Virginia University.
Also, in the days following Burch’s death, WVU suspended social activities for all Greek life.
West Virginia University released this statement on the new information released today:
“The death of 18-year-old West Virginia University student Nolan Burch, and the details surrounding the circumstances leading up to his passing that were released today by the Morgantown Police Department, remain a sad and tragic situation.
“WVU officials will continue to cooperate with the investigation, which is currently under review by the prosecuting attorney and pending receipt of the medical examiner’s report.
“The safety of our students always comes first – and will continue to. Concern for our students is the primary reason a moratorium was placed on Greek activities Nov. 13, a day following the tragedy.
“And while some events such as chapter meetings, philanthropic activities and educational programming are allowed, the ban remains in place for social activities with the exception of alcohol free/dry events, pending approval of plans (as of Jan. 20).
“Alcohol abuse is an issue with which universities nationwide are grappling. West Virginia University remains committed to transforming the culture on its campus. Led by our student leadership, the University continues to work toward a meaningful change that will create a positive impact on our campus and local communities.”
Police say a determination of criminal charges will be made after a final review of the investigation by the Prosecutors Office.