WVU fraternity pledge had blood alcohol level of .493, Morgantown police say

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MORGANTOWN, W. Va. —

A West Virginia University freshman who died after a fraternity initiation event last year had a blood alcohol content more than six times the legal limit, authorities said.

Nolan Michael Burch, 18, died with a blood alcohol content of .493 percent, according to police.

Morgantown police officers responded to a home on Belmar Avenue for an unknown medical emergency just before midnight on Nov. 12.

According to police, when the first officer arrived, he found an individual performing CPR on an unresponsive 18-year-old.

The officer continued to perform CPR until emergency personnel arrived.

The victim, identified as Burch, was taken to Ruby Memorial Hospital, where he later died.

Police said Burch, of Buffalo, New York, was a pledge at Sigma Kappa fraternity.

Detectives investigating the death conducted dozens of interviews and reviewed video footage and evidence

The results of their investigation are being reviewed by the Monongalia County prosecutor's office. The medical examiner’s report is pending.

A determination of criminal charges will be made following the final review by the prosecutor’s office, police said.

According to Morgantown police, Burch, along with 19 other fraternity pledges, were summoned to the house to participate in an initiation function referred to as “Big-Little.”

Police said Burch and the other pledges were taken to a room inside the fraternity, blindfolded and then led to another location on Glendon Street.

According to the police report, Burch and the other pledges were presented to the “Big,” a senior member or alumnus of Kappa Sigma, and were given bottles of liquor.

Police said Burch consumed a large quantity of alcohol.

According to police, Burch was later taken back to the Belmar Avenue home because of his "high level of intoxication."

“At approximately 11:50 p.m. another member of Kappa Sigma observed that Burch’s face had a blue coloration to it and tried to wake him,” the police release said. “This is when Burch was found to be without a pulse and CPR was initiated, along with a call being made to 911.”

In a statement Tuesday, West Virginia University and Greek Life organizations said that the safety of the students always comes first and that’s why Greek activities were suspended after Burch's death.

The case has now been handed over to the county prosecutor’s office to determine if criminal charges will be filed.

The medical examiner’s report, which could also play a role in determining if criminal charges will be filed, still has not been released. 

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