University of Washington looks at death and injury falls at fraternities and dorms

Nick Perry, The Seattle Times higher education reporter, wrote today in The Times about the history of falls resulting in severe injury and death at University of Washington’s dorms and fraternities. Perry sites Seattle Police reports that record at least 11 tragic accidents in the past 25 years and of these falls, 6 resulted in death and 5 resulted in severe injuries including broken backs and necks.

We cited on this blog two falls at UW fraternities. In June, Kevin MacDonald was killed after he fell from his third story fraternity bedroom window. Erik Anderson filed a lawsuit after his fall in 2005 resulted in serious injuries.

There have been several common denominators in these tragic falls. All of the students have been male and between the ages of 18 and 21. Many of them had used alcohol before their fall, but not all of them were intoxicated. Others have fallen but were not seriously hurt.

A lot of people want to place the bulk of the blame on the young men that were injured or killed due to the fact that many of them had been drinking prior to their accidents. UW vice provost for student life, Eric Godfrey and the UW police chief, Ray Wittmier, are looking past the blame game and hope to bring in safety experts and alumni to look at the safety of the fraternity buildings. Many of the fraternity houses date back to the 20s and 30s. While fraternities are private institutions, perhaps the UW can exert some influence and help enact some safety policies. Some changes that should be made immediately are:

  • Requiring screens on windows
  • Not allowing the positioning of bunk beds in front of windows
  • Installing windows that do not open out
  • Making sure that the number of students occupying each bedroom is appropriate
  • The University also needs continue dialogue with the Greek houses about safety and drinking.

Chronology of Accidents

• June 2008 – Kevin MacDonald, 21, died at Alpha Sigma Phi • May 2008 – 20 year old, serious injuries after fall from the roof of Phi Kappa Psi • April 2005 – Erik Anderson, 19, fell 45 feet at Delta Upsilon
• May 2002 – Brett Jensen, 19, died at Pi Kappa Phi • March 2001 – Greg Gilbert, 18, died at McMahon Hall • October 1996 – Billy Price, 19, broke his neck in fall at Alpha Delta Phi • December 198 – Bryan Foisy, 19, died at McMahon Hall • September 1987 – Brian Lopez, 18, died at Beta Theta Pi • May 1986 – Thomas White Jr., 19, died at Alpha Delta Phi • January 1986 – Erik Heimbigner, 20, seriously hurt at Sigma Alpha Epsilon • December 1985 – Chad Houck, 18, serious injuries after fall at Haggett Hall dorm
This information was brought to you by Washington Injury Attorney, a service of The Farber Law Group. We represent people who have been seriously injured due to the negligence of others. We also represent families who are entitled to bring a wrongful death action when someones negligence caused the death of a family member. While these cases are difficult to negotiate through the court system, The Farber Law Group has more than 30 years experience in handling wrongful death cases.

Please contact The Farber Law Group to discuss your case.