In September of 2014, 19-year-old Tucker Hipps was a pledge of the Sigma Phi Epsilon frat at Clemson University in South Carolina. On September 22 of the same year, Tucker’s body was found floating in a lake. The teen fraternity pledge was dead. But what had caused this mysterious frat pledge death? New details have emerged in the case of Tucker Hipps, alleging that his death was caused by illegal fraternity hazing.
Earlier this year, Cindy and Gary Hipps, Tucker’s parents, filed two $25 million lawsuits against Clemson University, the national fraternity, and three of Tucker’s Sigma Phi Epsilon frat brothers, alleging extortion, harassment, a cover-up, and verbal abuse. This week, an unidentified witness came forward offering new information on Tucker’s mysterious death, according to court documents.
These new documents state that Hipps, in an act of frat hazing, was forced to walk along the railing of the bridge from which he fell to his death.
“[Tucker slipped] and caught the railing under his arms… tried to climb back onto the bridge unassisted… lost his grip on the bridge and fell head-first into the water below, striking his head on the rocks in the shallow water.”
The hazing ritual reportedly took place after Hipps failed to bring McDonald’s breakfast for 27 pledges prior to an early morning pledge run. The lawsuit filed by Tucker’s parents claims that Tucker and frat brother Thomas King were involved in a confrontation on the bridge shortly before the frat pledge fell to his death. An autopsy on Hipps’ body revealed that he had died of “blunt force trauma consistent with a downward headfirst falling injury.”
In a statement following the launching of their lawsuit, Tucker’s parents said that the suits were filed “in the hopes that change will happen and that no other parent will feel the pain they have been forced to endure. Tucker lost his life, but we must not let it be vain.”
“[Tucker’s death was] a senseless and avoidable tragedy. The culture of hazing and inappropriate conduct by social fraternities must be stopped. Universities and fraternities must make change from within to protect their own.”
Though the new evidence in the Clemson University frat pledge death certainly answers some questions, it also raises others, like why did it take the Sigma Phi Epsilon frat brothers three hours after their pledge’s fall to start looking for him? And why did it take a total of seven hours before the frat brothers called campus security? Regardless, it all gives little solace to Cindy and Gary Hipps, who will forever grieve the loss of their young son, taken from them far too early.
[Image Credit: The State]