Breaking News
More () »

'Sam was a beautiful spark of light': Family remembers WSU student who died at fraternity

A preliminary investigation indicates the death may be alcohol-related, Pullman police said.

PULLMAN, Wash. — Pullman police identified the student who died at a Washington State University fraternity chapter overnight on Tuesday.

Chief Gary Jenkins identified the student as freshman Samuel Martinez, 19, of Bellevue.

Pullman Police Operations Commander Jake Opgenorth said Martinez was found unconscious and not breathing at the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity about 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday. Medics later determined he was dead. 

"On Nov. 12, 2019, we lost our beautiful son and brother, Sam Martinez," the family said in a statement. 

"We want you to know and remember some things about Sam--his amazing athleticism, the way his eyes crinkled when he smiled, his sharp mind, his sense of humor and his steadfast loyalty to his family and friends.

"Sam was a beautiful spark of light, a comet that came and went through our lives too quickly. We are overcome with grief. And we are so grateful for your prayers and well wishes through this unbearable loss."

Pullman police said his death may be alcohol-related. 

Dispatchers can be heard on a 911 call placed on Tuesday morning saying, "A 19-year-old male, he's not conscious, not breathing. They believed it may be alcohol poisoning." 

Opgenorth said in a press release Wednesday evening that the department does not believe the incident meets the state's definition of hazing.

The fraternity, like all Greek houses at WSU, is off-campus. 

The police department is investigating the death with cooperation from the university and the ATO fraternity.

"The Pullman Police Department extends our deepest condolences to the Martinez family, his ATO brothers, and the WSU and Bellevue communities," the department wrote on Facebook on Wednesday. 

All fraternity and sorority events at Washington State University have been suspended after Martinez died at the fraternity on Tuesday. 

"In response to this situation, all fraternities and sororities within the WSU Greek community have self-imposed an immediate suspension of all social events for the remainder of the semester," WSU spokesman Phil Weiler said in a press release.

The WSU Interfraternity Council released a statement about the death of Martinez, stating in part that while the investigation into the circumstances continues, the IFC instituted an interim suspension of all social events for the remainder of the semester.

A preliminary investigation indicates the death may be alcohol-related, Opgenorth said, but the Whitman County Coroner will determine the official manner and cause of death. 

Students are being offered support and counseling on campus. 

ATO Nationals issued the following statement Tuesday afternoon, saying: 

"Alpha Tau Omega mourns the death of a member who passed away overnight. The chapter is working with local officials and university administrators in their investigation. Counselors are on site offering assistance and support. The National Fraternity will have a team on site today to work with chapter members and assist the University and law enforcement as needed."  

Credit: Doris Donovan
Sam Martinez

Past incidents at WSU student fraternities

In October 2016, a 21-year-old WSU student was found dead inside of a bedroom at the Pi Kappa Phi fraternity house. The Whitman County coroner determined the death was a result of acute intoxication from a combination of methadone and alprazolam, more commonly known as Xanax. 

Fraternities at WSU have had many incidents involving alcohol over the years. Students have been injured after drunkenly falling out of windows, others have been hospitalized for alcohol poisoning and there have been allegations of date rape.   

RELATED: Fraternity remembers WSU student found dead in bedroom

RELATED: WSU officials confirm student found dead inside fraternity house

RELATED: WSU student critically hurt after fall from 2nd floor balcony

RELATED: WSU frat suspended after allegations of date rape

Second death at U.S. fraternity in past week 

This is the second death at an American university fraternity in the past week.

On Tuesday morning, CBS reported that 14 fraternities at San Diego State University are under suspension after the death of a 19-year-old freshman. The student, Dylan Hernandez, died at a frat party last week.

University officials have not released the cause of Hernandez's hospitalization or death, but said there is evidence that a fraternity may have been engaged in "possible misconduct," according to CBS News correspondent Jamie Yuccas.

Before You Leave, Check This Out