Questions are being asked as to whether sophomore Clemson fraternity pledge, Tucker Hipps, 19 was forced into taking on a dangerous stunt as part of fraternity hazing according to a new lawsuit.
The $25 million lawsuit comes against Clemson University comes after the South Carolina sophomore freshman died last September after purportedly made to walk along a narrow bridge, before plunging 20 feet below in the shallow waters of Lake Hartwell.
At the time it was claimed that Hipps, a pledge at Sigma Phi Eplison, had been out running with his frat brothers before lagging behind and was not seen again until police found his body in the water.
However, a new witness has now come forward, claiming that Hipps fell after being forced to walk along a narrow safety railing on the side of the bridge during a hazing stunt.
According to court papers, Hipps had been forced to participate in a pre-dawn run along with other pledges at the fraternity – a practice banned by Sigma Phi Epsilon and Clemson University.
Before the run, Hipps received a text telling him to bring ’30 McDonald’s biscuits, 30 McDonald’s hash browns and two gallons of chocolate milk,’ as breakfast for the pledges.
Hipps in turn, according to court documents, messaged back to say he didn’t have enough money for the meal, and when he arrived for the run there was an ‘altercation‘.
When the pledges arrived at the bridge, Hipps was allegedly ‘forced to get onto the narrow railing along the bridge and walk some distance of the bridge on top of the railing.’
Describe court papers: ‘[Hipps] slipped from the railing and caught the railing under his arms …. tried to climb back onto the bridge unassisted … lost his grip on the bridge and fell headfirst into the water below, striking his head on the rocks in the shallow water.’
The new details were revealed in two $25million lawsuits filed by Hipps’ parents, Gary and Cindy Hipps, in the wake of their son’s death, according to Greenville News.
Named in the suit, along with Clemson University, is Sigma Phi Epsilon and three frat brothers, with the suit asserting the defendants bear ultimate responsibility for Hipps’ death.
The lawsuit went on to say that the three brothers have ‘all been deceptive and failed to be forthcoming with police.’
Among those accused is Samuel Carney, the son of Democrat John Carney, the Representative for Delaware, Thomas Carter King and Campbell T. Starr.
The details of a new witness were revealed in amendments to those lawsuits, which have been updated to include the new information.
They provide the first evidence which could help to explain how Hipps fell from the bridge and into the water below.
After Hipps fell, the court documents say ‘King shined a flashlight on his cell phone into the dark waters below looking for Tucker.’
Yet here’s where things get iffy.
According to papers filed, nobody tried to rescue the fallen youth from the waters, with the brothers waiting at least three hours before looking for him, and seven hours before calling campus security.
It is also claimed that the frat brothers lied to Hipps’ girlfriend when she asked where he was, telling her he had been seen in the library, according to CNN.
The suits said the fraternity had a long tradition of ‘requiring, pressuring, encouraging and forcing‘ pledge members to jump off bridges over the lake and swim to shore.
Why the witness decided only now to come forward is not necessarily understood. Nevertheless cops have confirmed having spoken to the witness.
A toxicology report at the time told that Hipps was not under the influence of any substances.
A coroner’s report described Hipps dying of blunt force trauma from a head-first fall onto rocks in shallow water, along with securing injuries to his arms.
The lawsuits, one for wrongful death and another for personal injury, contend Hipps’ death was caused by the gross negligence and recklessness of the defendants
At the time the original lawsuits were filed, Carney, King and Starr denied the allegations against them, asking for the action to be dismissed.
The University and national chapter of Sigma Phi Epsilon also denied the allegations, saying Hipps’s death was the result of his own actions.
None of the defendants have yet responded to the new allegations revealed today.
And then there was this comment on the web that made me wonder, see what you think?
This is a tragedy that should never have happened and fraternities/sororities really need to be squashed. But we see this happen time and time again. I just want to know, why don’t these people ever just say no? Are they worried about being called wimps or cry babies? Big deal. Do you really want to belong to a brotherhood of idiocy? And how could somebody see something like that happen and not come forward immediately? I could never keep something like that quiet.