Initiation game kills City University of New York student Chun Hsien Deng
Initiation test known as 'glass ceiling' reportedly the cause of injury leading to death of 19-year-old at City University of New York
The game is called "glass ceiling". The fraternity pledger is blindfolded and a heavy item placed on his back. He then tries to navigate to a person calling to him as others try to tackle him.
But at the weekend, the game went wrong for Chun Hsien Deng, one of the Baruch College students pledging to the Pi Delta Psi Asian-American fraternity.
The 19-year-old died after suffering "major brain trauma", police in the US state of Pennsylvania said on Wednesday.
The fraternity of the New York college describes itself as an "Asian-American cultural fraternity" with a mission "to help spread Asian-American cultural awareness in an effort to empower the entire Asian American community".
Its website lists four pillars: academic achievement, cultural awareness, righteousness and friendship/loyalty.
Deng, who also went by the name Michael, was staying at a home in Tunkhannock Township, Pennsylvania, near Stroudsburg, as part of a retreat with about 30 members of the Pi Delta Psi fraternity, the Monroe County district attorney's office said. Deng was one of four pledges on the retreat.
He suffered an injury early on Sunday "while partaking in a ritual in the yard of the residence", the office said. He proved unresponsive, and "after some time" fraternity members took him to the emergency room of a hospital in Wilkes-Barre. He was placed on life support and died on Monday.
The police and the district attorney are investigating the death, as well as the lapse of time between the injury and the time Deng was taken to the Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Centre.
David Christine, the district attorney for Monroe County, said on Wednesday night that Deng had died after taking part in the "glass ceiling" game.
"He has to navigate blind to someone who has called for him," Christine said. "It's played outside, and as he makes his way, other people are trying to tackle him to prevent him from reaching his goal."
Christine said that while details of what had happened remained under investigation, no ambulance was called and no medical service was provided to Deng before someone drove him to the hospital. He said he did not know when Deng had arrived at Geisinger, but noted that the hospital had called the police at 8.15am on Sunday.
Charles Moore, who lives across the street from where the fraternity members were staying, said the house was known for parties on the weekends that went as late as 2am.
"There's a different party every weekend," Moore said. "Sometimes it's family, but a lot of the time it's kids."
A spokeswoman for Baruch College, which is part of the City University of New York, said that Deng had died after "an unsanctioned fraternity pledging event".
In a statement expressing sorrow over his death, Mitchel Wallerstein, the college president, said it "had no knowledge of this event or that the fraternity was rushing a pledge class".
"Pi Delta Psi did not request permission nor were they approved by Baruch on this matter."
Fraternity and sorority members of the college were required to attend annual training about the hazards of hazing and "to sign statements that they understand and will abide by the college's policies regarding organising a pledge class and anti-hazing protocols", the college's spokeswoman said.
Baruch has suspended the rights of the fraternity on campus while conducting an internal investigation.