HEMPSTEAD, Texas (CN) – A Phi Beta Sigma pledge died from over-exertion after Prairie View A&M University “turned a blind eye to the repeated hazing rituals” of its fraternities, the late student’s parents claim in Waller County Court. Donnie and Katrina Wade want the university to pay $67 million in punitive damages for the death of their son Donnie Wade II.
They say Wade II paid Phi Beta Sigma a $900 “intake fee,” bought food and alcohol, and did laundry for its older members, who beat the pledges with wooden paddles as part of the fraternity’s hazing rituals.
“On October 15, 2009 Donnie Wade II, and his fellow Phi Beta Sigma pledges were directed via text messages to attend a mandatory exercise session behind the ROTC Building at Hempstead High School in Hempstead, Texas,” his parents say.
The frat’s older members forced the pledges to perform an “Indian run,” where all the participants lined up and the back person ran to the front continuously around the school’s track, the Wades say.
The pledges then had to perform a “snake,” in which they repeatedly ran up one set of bleachers and down another, according to the complaint.
“Different witness testimony all indicate Donnie showed signs of fatigue and over exertion during the rigorous and traditional Phi Beta Sigma initiation process,” his parents say. “Yet, the process continued.”
“Next, Donnie endured push-ups and approximately thirty jumping jacks,” the Wades say.
Phi Beta Sigma’s older members then forced the pledges to do “six-inchers,” where a pledge holds his legs 6 inches off the ground for a certain length of time, according to the complaint.
“Donnie reached his ultimate level of exertion performing six inchers as he was unable to stand up after completing the first set of six inchers,” his parents say. “Donnie was visibly injured. At this time fellow pledges questioned Donnie’s ability to continue. Donnie advised them that ‘he was hurting.’ Eventually, Donnie stood up and collapsed a second time.”
Donnie’s line brothers checked his pulse and splashed water on his face, the Wades say.
“Noticing that Donnie’s condition was failing new member picked Donnie up and started to place him in his car,” the Wades claim. “At this time, it was believed that Donnie had passed out.”
The frat members allegedly took Donnie to his home in Brookside, Texas, where two members then volunteered to take him to the hospital.
“About thirty minutes after Phi Beta Sigma members arrived at the hospital, they were advised Donnie Wade, II was dead,” his parents say.
“Phi Beta Sigma’s traditional and customary initiation process, known by defendant PVAM, led to Donnie’s death,” the Wades claim. “Defendant had prior knowledge of this type of hazing. In fact, there were seven incidents of hazing reported in the seven years prior to the hazing death of Donnie Wade II.”
In addition to the $67 million in punitive damages, the Wades also demand $30 million in actual damages.
The Wades are suing the university for gross negligence and wrongful death, and are represented by Kevin Kelly of Dallas.
Prairie Wade A&M University is a historically black university in Prairie View, Texas, about 45 miles northwest of Houston.