Campus Connection, April 20, 2012

The Merciad has partnered with the student newspaper at Gannon University (The Gannon Knight) during the 2011-13 school year.

Our goal is to bring you the most important news happening on local college campuses each week.

University mourns student’s death

By Tessy Pawlowski, news editor

Grieving continues for Jason Wahl, the 21-year-old Gannon student, who died after incurring head injuries when he fell off the second-floor balcony of the Alpha Phi Delta (APD) fraternity house.

Shortly before 8 p.m. on Friday, April 13, police said Wahl, a junior engineering major from Harmony, Pa., in Butler County, was jumping up and down near the railing when he lost balance and fell 17 feet.

He was unconscious when paramedics arrived to APD at 234-236 West 3rd St., and went into cardiac arrest when he was placed in the ambulance to be taken to UPMC Hamot Medical Center.

He was listed in critical condition in the intensive care unit until early Saturday morning.

Wahl was pronounced brain dead at 3:21 p.m. on Saturday, April 14, by Erie County Coroner Lyell Cook.

Karla Wludyga, university director of public relations, confirmed Monday that he had been taken off life support.

Cook ruled blunt force trauma as the cause of death. No autopsy will be performed, and the death was ruled accidental.

Cook said it will take two or three more weeks to determine specifics about substances in Wahl’s body. He was given toxicology at the hospital, but this information isn’t open to the public.

Lieutenant Kirk Werner, the public relations officer for the Erie police, said police investigation was closed after no criminal action or suspicious circumstances were found. He said if there are no extenuating circumstances, cases like these are often closed quickly.

“It’s an unfortunate accident,” Werner said.

Ted Marnen, director of Police and Safety at Gannon, said Gannon police were called in to assist on the scene by the Erie police. He said in the aftermath the first concern is to grieve, but he said it’s important to discuss safety.

He said Gannon made an effort to improve Harborview railings by raising them. Police and Safety doesn’t have any control over the fraternity houses, but he said the height of that railing is a concern.

Eric Pope, associate director of S.O.L.D., said the adviser to the Panhellenic council said neither the university nor the Inter-Fraternity Council will take any action against the fraternity as Wahl and the couple others who were there that night were all 21 or older, and the gathering wasn’t deemed an official fraternity function.

“It was just an accident involving a frat member,” he said.
Students gathered at a prayer service on Saturday for Wahl. On Sunday, the regularly scheduled 9 p.m. Mass at Mary, Seat of Wisdom chapel was held for Wahl.

President Keith Taylor said he hopes the community will come together to help those at Gannon affected by Wahl’s death.

“I encourage students to lean on each other, the faculty and staff at this time,” he said. “Please take advantage of the grief counseling that is available if you need someone to talk to, and do your very best to focus on your studies as the semester ends.

“Our faith will help us heal together as a community,” Taylor said.