The family of the University of Maryland freshman found unconscious after a fraternity "tap night" event last week said last night that the student was brain dead, and that he would be taken off life support this morning so that doctors can harvest his organs.
His would be the second fraternity-related death at the College Park campus this school year.
Daniel Reardon, 19, was found not breathing and without a pulse early Friday at Phi Sigma Kappa house after the night when the fraternity extends membership to students. Authorities and his family say alcohol is believed to be the cause.
Dermid Reardon, his uncle, said last night that Reardon's parents were spending final hours with him at Washington Adventist Hospital, and that about 10 of his friends had visited to say goodbye.
"It's rough," said Reardon, who was at the Washington home of the student's father, a dentist. "His father actually lived in the [hospital] room, slept on the floor, and didn't leave. It's a parent's worst nightmare."
Reardon also explained more about his nephew's decision to rush Phi Sigma Kappa, where he had been renting a room. The freshman's wish to live in a fraternity was motivated in part by having been expelled from his dormitory last semester for marijuana possession, his uncle said.
"He wanted to be part of college life, and [the fraternity] was a good alternative," Reardon said. "He didn't want to commute from home, and the only other option was getting his own apartment."
Paramedics who responded to the call from the fraternity house said alcohol appeared to be the likely cause of his collapse, Prince George's County Fire Department officials have said. Last night, Dermid Reardon said doctors had confirmed that, after finding no other drugs in the student's blood.
In a statement released last night, Nancy McKemie, Daniel Reardon's mother, said: "We hope Daniel's tragedy has touched and sensitized us to the dangers of substance abuse. We hope to share our hard-earned understanding of such dangers with the larger community."
Daniel Reardon spent a year after graduating from Woodrow Wilson High School traveling in Europe, and after struggling academically in the fall, he was looking forward to a better year, his uncle said.
"He was a lot more positive," Dermid Reardon said. "He was looking forward to a great semester. He was an extremely bright young man, and he had turned a corner."
The university's first fraternity-related death of the school year was that of Alexander Klochkoff, 20, a junior from Long Island, who died in September at Sigma Alpha Epsilon. Medical examiners ruled that GHB, a party drug and muscle enhancer, contributed to his death.
University of Maryland spokesman George Cathcart said the university and police are continuing to investigate what happened at Phi Sigma Kappa. The university has suspended all social events at the fraternity, he said.
After Klochkoff's death, the university instituted a temporary ban on fraternity parties, which was lifted this semester, with conditions: fraternities must register guest lists for each party, and parties are to be subject to more frequent random checks.
But Phi Sigma Kappa did not need to register Thursday night's event, because it was internal, not a party, Cathcart said. The no-alcohol policy that prevails during rush reason does not apply on tap night, although fraternities are supposed to observe the legal drinking-age limit of 21, he said.