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Parents sue frat in Mont Vernon teen’s alcohol death

Parents sue frat in Mont Vernon teen’s alcohol death


Union Leader

By Kimberly Houghton, Union Leader Correspondent

May 19, 2015


MONT VERNON — The parents of a former Souhegan High School student who died two years ago after a fraternity party at Boston University have filed a wrongful death suit in federal court.


Sigma Alpha Mu fraternity, along with three fraternity brothers, are the defendants in a civil lawsuit filed by the parents of Anthony Barksdale II, of Mont Vernon, a freshman engineering student at Boston University who died of alcohol poisoning.


“Tony was an inexperienced drinker and quickly became severely intoxicated as he tried to drink the contents of the (1.75 liter bottle of vodka) during the party,” states court documents filed at the U.S. District Court in Boston.


Barksdale, 18, was one of six freshman pledges who attended a March 1, 2013 party, at the Sigma Alpha Mu off-campus fraternity house at 22 Wadsworth St., in Allston, Mass., according to court records.


One of the defendants, Jacob Beck, of Brookline, Mass., provided Barksdale with the vodka and directed him to drink it alone or share it with others, the lawsuit claims.


The suit, filed by Barksdale’s parents — Anthony Barksdale of Nashua and Melanie Richard of Mont Vernon — alleges that the fraternity brothers were aware that Barksdale was highly intoxicated, and took him outside for fresh air when he collapsed on the ground.


Rather than seeking emergency assistance, however, the fraternity brothers took Barksdale inside the house and positioned him on a couch, according to court documents.


Barksdale’s roommate later observed him vomit, and others called 911 when they discovered that he was non-responsive and in respiratory distress, according to the suit.


CPR was begun before emergency medical personnel arrived.


He was transported to St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Brighton, Mass., but died a short time later of complications of acute ethanol intoxication, including acute aspiration pneumonia, according to court records.


His blood-alcohol level was .33.


The wrongful death suit claims that fraternity members delayed seeking treatment for Barksdale, which allegedly exacerbated his condition.


“Although the national fraternity may have written policies against the underage consumption of alcohol, it maintains a culture that encourages the overconsumption of alcohol and the consumption of alcohol as a means of signifying and achieving acceptance into the fraternity’s brotherhood,” the lawsuit states.


Leland Manders, executive director of the national Sigma Alpha Mu organization, said in an email Tuesday that the organization “won’t have any comment at this time.”


Barksdale’s parents allege that they, along with their son’s estate, are entitled to compensatory damages including loss of reasonably expected net income, funeral and burial expenses, punitive damages and the conscious pain and suffering of their son prior to his death. They are seeking a jury trial on all counts of the complaint, which was filed on April 17.


Aside from Sigma Alpha Mu and Beck, other defendants in the suit include Alex Cuetara, of Brookline, Mass., and Edmond Gamelin III, of San Francisco, Calif. Jonathon Scarbeau of Boston, Mass., was voluntarily dismissed from the suit, according to court records.


Attorney Andru Volinsky of the Manchester law firm Bernstein, Shur, Sawyer & Nelson, P.A., is representing the Barksdale family. He was not available for comment on Tuesday. Barksdale’s parents were also unavailable for comment.


Barksdale was studying mechanical engineering at Boston University, and had obtained a 3.33 grade point average during his first semester of college when he enrolled in “challenging courses such as general chemical engineering and calculus,” court documents say.


He took advanced placement courses at Souhegan High School, where he maintained a 3.56 GPA and was designated as a New Hampshire Scholar. He also played varsity football, basketball and track during his high school career.


Barksdale was presented the high school’s Humanity Award at graduation, and had earned a U.S. Marine Corps Scholastic Excellence Award, according to the civil suit.


“Tony’s promising future prematurely ended with his tragic death on March 2, 2013,” the suit states.


After his death, the national SAM fraternity suspended all activities of the Boston University chapter, and the college also suspended the chapter’s on-campus activities, according to the lawsuit.


His father created a scholarship in Barksdale’s name after his son’s death, aimed to help students attend college and pursue mechanical or aeronautical studies.