A 19-year-old freshman at Baruch College died after taking part in a fraternity ritual where he was blindfolded, weighed down and knocked over repeatedly while trying to walk a path, authorities said.
Chun Hsien "Michael" Deng was brought unresponsive with head trauma to a hospital in the Poconos early Sunday, according to the Monroe County district attorney's office. He died Monday.
Detectives learned that Deng was injured "while partaking in a ritual" outside the Poconos home where he and 30 other members of the Pi Delta Psi fraternity were staying for the weekend. Deng was one of four pledges on the trip.
In the ritual, pledges had their eyes covered and were told they had to get from one point to another while wearing weighted bags and being pushed about, Pocono Mountain Regional Police Chief Harry Lewis said.
"It was cold and frigid here -- they were given very heavy backpacks," Lewis said.
Deng was knocked unconscious during the ritual and was brought inside, Lewis said, but there was a "considerable" delay before fraternity brothers drove him to the hospital.
Deng, who was from Queens, attended the elite Bronx High School of Science. A former classmate said he was "well-liked and smart."
The quote beneath his yearbook photo said: "If people are doubting how far you'll go, go so far that you can't hear them anymore."
The Monroe County district attorney said Thursday that charges would likely be filed in the death, but had not completed the investigation.
The ritual bears resemblance to a hazing activity called “the gauntlet,” which was implicated in deaths at Florida A&M University in 2011 and Lenoir Rhyne University in North Carolina in 2008, NBC News reports.
Authorities say alcohol doesn’t appear to have been a major factor.
The national president of the fraternity, Andy Meng, said the trip was "an unsanctioned event that was strictly prohibited by our organization." The group suspended all of its new member activities until further notice.
Baruch College said the trip was an "unsanctioned fraternity pledging event."
"Baruch College had no knowledge of this event or that the fraternity was rushing a pledge class," the school said in a statement.
"Michael’s death is a deeply painful reminder that no individual should ever be put into a position where his or her personal safety is in jeopardy," the statement added.
The school said it has a zero tolerance policy on hazing and requires fraternities and sororities to attend training that includes anti-hazing discussions.
Sam Stelzer, a senior who belongs to a different fraternity, said he "couldn't imagine a fraternity inflicting physical abuse like that."