Family sues fraternity

BOSTON – The family of a Souhegan High School graduate who died at a Boston University frat party is suing the fraternity and several of its members in federal court.

Anthony Barksdale II was 19 and a freshman engineering student when he died at a Sigma Alpha Mu social event at an apartment home on Wadsworth Street in Boston that the fraternity rented for some members. The school described the event as a “meet and greet” event for young students like Barksdale. He was in the early stages of “rushing,” or preparing to become a fraternity member.

He was found unconscious just after midnight on March 2, 2013. He died at a hospital about three hours later, according to reports.

Barksdale’s parents,
Anthony Barksdale, of Nashua, and Melanie Ricard, of Mont Vernon, filed the wrongful death suit in U.S. District Court in Boston last month.

The suit accuses three of the fraternity members – Alex Cuetara of Brookline, Mass.; Edmond Gamelin III, of San Francisco; and Jacob Beck, of Brookline, Mass. – of failing to care for Barksdale when he became unconscious, exacerbating his condition and leading to his death.

The fraternity members who lived at the off-campus apartment were joined by about 40 other fraternity members along with half a dozen pledges, including Barksdale. The party wasn’t registered with university officials, according to the suit, because the fraternity planned to serve alcohol to underage students and did so by charging $5 for a red Solo cup, according to the suit.

When Barksdale arrived at the party around 9:30 p.m., Beck handed him a “handle” of vodka – about 13?4 liters – told him to “drink it alone or share it with others.” Beck told Barksdale’s father that information after Barksdale’s death, according to the suit.

Barksdale quickly became extremely drunk and fraternity members brought him outside for air and then positioned him on a couch inside. Near midnight, Barksdale’s roommate saw him vomit on the couch and other partygoers then noticed he was “non-responsive and in respiratory distress,” according to the suit.

Someone called 911 and others performed CPR on Barksdale. He briefly regained consciousness but then vomited again and lost consciousness and a pulse. EMTs rushed Barksdale to Saint Elizabeth’s Hospital where he later died, according to the suit.

“At some point between being taken outside ‘for air’ and losing consciousness, (Barksdale) was likely aware of his impending death,” according to the suit.

An autopsy determined Barksdale’s blood-alcohol content was 0.33, more than four times the legal limit for driving, according to court documents.

“Defendants breached its or their duty when certain fraternity members carelessly left (Barksdale) on the couch, despite his obvious distress and did not summon the police or EMS,” according to the suit. “Defendants failed to immediately contact emergency services at the first sign of (Barksdale’s) distress, thus exacerbating (his) condition.”

National Sigma Alpha Mu officials suspended the BU chapter days after Barksdale’s death.

Barksdale was a top student and varsity basketball player during his years at Souhegan High School. Before graduating, he earned the basketball team’s Coach’s Award, a U.S. Marine Corps Scholastic Excellence Award and a humanities award.

Former teammates on the Souhegan High School basketball team honored him days after his death, wearing the number 42 on their jerseys during a playoff game against Hanover. Coach Mike Heaney called Barksdale “one of the sweetest, nicest players” he ever coached.

A fourth fraternity member, Jonathon Scarbeau, of Boston, was originally named as a defendant in the suit but the Barksdales’ attorney, Andru Volinsky filed a motion voluntarily dismissing the charges against him earlier this month, according to court records.