Student in coma; friends told police water chugging wasn't hazing
07:17 AM CST on Monday, November 17, 2003
By EMILY RAMSHAW / The Dallas Morning News
A student at Southern Methodist University remained in critical condition Sunday after ingesting large amounts of water in what school officials said may have been a fraternity hazing incident.
Braylon Curry, 21, was admitted to Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas early Saturday and had fallen into a coma by midmorning. Doctors told police he is suffering from pulmonary edema, a condition where water enters the lungs, and hyponatremia, a sodium imbalance brought on by excess fluid consumption.
Officials at SMU said Mr. Curry, a junior pledge in Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, spent Friday night engaged in what appeared to be a water-drinking competition at an off-campus apartment. Paul Morris, spokesman for the Dallas Police Department, said an ambulance was called to the Village Apartments at 8 a.m. Saturday with a report that Mr. Curry had been "dazed and incoherent" since 5 a.m. Police said he was in poor condition when he arrived at the hospital.
Sgt. Morris said Mr. Curry's friends, who accompanied him to the hospital, told police the activity was not hazing.
An SMU police officer at the hospital told Dallas police the men were members of Alpha Phi Alpha, which has since been suspended by the university.
By law, hazing is defined as a potentially harmful activity someone must participate in to get into an organization, SMU officials said.
Jim Caswell, vice president for student affairs at SMU, said that it was unclear how many men were involved in Friday night's activity. He said the fraternity was suspended after a hazing incident three years ago and re-colonized on campus a few months ago. The fraternity has seven members.
"Our primary concern is the young man in question," Mr. Caswell said. "We'll try to get to the bottom of this as the week progresses."
Adrian Barnes, a friend of Mr. Curry's family, said Mr. Curry was an all-around guy, from the football skills he demonstrated at Allen High School and Austin College to his close relationship with his brother and mother.
"He's just a great person – a good athlete and a good person. He's involved in everything," Mr. Barnes said.
Mr. Barnes said he was not aware Mr. Curry had pledged a fraternity.
Mr. Caswell said the fraternity had been suspended pending a police investigation. If the investigation proves the activity was hazing, he said, it is "very likely" the suspension will be permanent.
"We want those men to know they must cease and desist everything they're doing," he said. "We're trying to get to the bottom of who was responsible."
The university held an educational anti-hazing event Friday before the incident and had published a half-page advertisement of Texas' hazing law in SMU's daily newspaper that day, Mr. Caswell said. The ads are printed once a semester, he said.
"We're very clear, very vocal about our hazing policy. It's state law," he said. "For any student here, you've got to think, 'How could they miss this?' "