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Pennsylvania

Doctor says waiting for help hurt Penn State pledge

| Friday, March 23, 2018, 12:27 a.m.
This file photo from Nov. 9, 2017, shows the Beta Theta Pi fraternity house on the Penn State University main campus in State College. On Feb. 4, 2017, authorities say Tim Piazza consumed a dangerous level of alcohol the night of a pledge bid acceptance ceremony and party at the Beta Theta Pi house, then suffered a series of falls, leaving him with a fractured skull and severe injuries to his brain and abdomen.
This file photo from Nov. 9, 2017, shows the Beta Theta Pi fraternity house on the Penn State University main campus in State College. On Feb. 4, 2017, authorities say Tim Piazza consumed a dangerous level of alcohol the night of a pledge bid acceptance ceremony and party at the Beta Theta Pi house, then suffered a series of falls, leaving him with a fractured skull and severe injuries to his brain and abdomen.

BELLEFONTE — A forensic pathologist says the injuries that killed a Penn State fraternity pledge last year may not have been fatal if fraternity members had summoned help more quickly.

Dr. Harry Kamerow testified Friday in a preliminary hearing to determine if there's sufficient evidence to proceed with charges against 11 members of Beta Theta Pi related to the death of 19-year-old Tim Piazza of Lebanon, N.J.

The hearing started without the defendants being present. The judge allowed the hearing to go on without the young men present. It is expected to last for days.

Kamerow says Piazza died from severe head and spleen injuries from falling down basement stairs the night of a pledge bid acceptance ceremony.

He says Piazza would have had a much better chance of surviving if help had been called after he was brought upstairs. An ambulance wasn't called until the next morning.

The 11 defendants are among 26 people facing charges.

Piazza's parents, Jim and Evelyn Piazza, were at the courthouse for the hearing.

Piazza, 19, a sophomore engineering student, was at the now-shuttered fraternity house for a pledge bid acceptance ceremony when he apparently fell down a set of basement steps.

He had to be carried upstairs and spent much of the night on a couch. He was recorded on the house's elaborate security camera system showing signs of pain and discomfort.

Prosecutors say members of the fraternity took half-hearted and even counterproductive steps to address his condition, ultimately leaving him alone in the dimly lit first-floor room.

In the early morning hours, Piazza somehow ended up back in the basement, where fraternity members found him unconscious. They carried him upstairs and then waited 40 minutes to summon help. He died at the hospital of a fractured skull and shattered spleen.

The men are being prosecuted by the state attorney general's office, which took over the case after a newly elected county district attorney was sworn in earlier this year.

State prosecutors opted to drop all of the aggravated assault charges, which had been the most serious allegations.

But five of the 11 defendants are still charged with involuntary manslaughter.

Other allegations include hazing, reckless endangerment, conspiracy and alcohol violations.

The attorney general's office has said its review of the case is ongoing and has not indicated its plans for other defendants.

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