Our View: Bogenberger’s death can be a cautionary tale

Published: Thursday, Aug. 29, 2013 5:30 a.m.CDT

The last hours of David Bogenberger’s life, as portrayed in an amended lawsuit his family filed in Cook County Circuit Court this month, are both appalling and sad.

Bogenberger, who was found dead Nov. 2 in the Pi Kappa Alpha house, was among the 19 pledges who participated in an initiation event at which women and established fraternity members ordered them to drink massive amounts of vodka in a short time, the lawsuit alleges.

The details alleged in the lawsuit are repulsive: Fraternity leaders planned to get the pledges so drunk that they passed out. Fraternity leaders decided not to seek medical attention for any of the pledges and told others not to either, but instead had participants position the pledges’ bodies to try to avoid them choking in their sleep if they got sick.

One can only imagine how the fraternity leaders felt the next day when Bogenberger, a 19-year-old Palatine High School graduate, was found dead in his “Greek father’s” bed. One can only imagine how Bogenberger’s parents felt when they learned their son had a blood-alcohol content of 0.351 percent, which is more than four times the legal limit to drive.

One can only imagine how the other party participants and their parents feel about 10 months later: Criminal cases remain pending against 22 fraternity members, all between the ages of 20 and 24, while the wrongful death lawsuit names those 22 fraternity members, the women who allegedly were involved that night, the fraternity chapter and the national fraternity organization. The chapter’s charter has been revoked.

As a new school year and a new Greek rush season begins, Bogenberger’s family has a simple message: Parents sending their children off to college should have a frank discussion with them about what happened to Bogenberger, the dramatic impact one night had on dozens of lives and the need to exercise mature judgment in the face of youthful traditions.

We agree. The last hours of Bogenberger’s life could have been very different if those involved – Bogenberger included – had made different choices.

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