Lenoir-Rhyne Student Dies From Injury at Fraternity Initiation

Posted on Dec 08, 2008

Controversy is already surrounding the death of a 19-year-old Lenoir-Rhyne University sophomore who died after a severe head injury during an alleged fraternity initiation event. The Catawba County Sheriff told the Charlotte Observer that the case was still under investigation and that the department was having difficulty rounding up witnesses and piecing the story together.

Allegedly, around 17 students were off campus in Hickory, NC, participating in an initiation event involving a flag - some referred to the game as a team-building activity while others have suspicions that hazing was a component of the event. The game took place at 11PM on Monday in darkness in a gated pasture called Buffalo Farm. Some of the students reported that the cold weather had frozen the ground and the young man struck his head during the activity.

Harrison Kowiak was said to be out with friends after the incident occurred - friends who later took him to a local hospital. When he arrived, he was then airlifted to Carolina's Medical Center in Charlotte where he died.

For the time being, his death is being treated like an accident. The sheriff does not yet consider the incident hazing, and Kowiak's family does not think that any criminal activity was involved.

"This is something they do every year, every fall and spring," Sheriff Huffman said of the fraternity. "This situation may not happen again in 100 years. The fraternity may need to review their initiation practices."

Students told reporters that Kowiak was a caring friend and a great roommate who will be missed on campus. He was a member of the golf team and pledging at the Theta Chi fraternity. Hundreds of friends and family gathered yesterday for a memorial service for the young man.