COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Numerous students were drinking heavily and for hours before a traditional cold-weather lake jump last year during which an Ohio State University student died, according to newly released police records about the student’s death.
The students included the victim, his friends and many other students among the thousands who attended the jump into Mirror Lake on Nov. 25, according to the report obtained by The Associated Press through an open records request.
Even the student who found the body of Austin Singletary had been drinking, the report said.
“Nobody was stumbling/falling down drunk, but they had definitely been drinking,” said another student, who had been with Singletary most of the night, according to the report.
The Franklin County coroner said Singletary, 22, died from accidental trauma to the head and neck caused by diving into shallow water during the jump, a tradition ahead of the annual football game with rival Michigan. The coroner said Singletary had a blood-alcohol content of 0.18, more than twice the legal limit in Ohio.
Another student — not part of Singletary’s circle of friends — told police “everyone in the group had been drinking,” from around 8 p.m. until about 11:30 p.m. when they left for the lake.
“There was nobody in the group that was so drunk they couldn’t care for themselves at least basically,” another student said. But the student added: “Driving vehicles was definitely not something they would be doing based on their intoxication level.”
Friends of Singletary began drinking late in the afternoon the day before, according to the report. They arrived at Singletary’s apartment around 7 p.m. where they found he had already been drinking, and moved to a fraternity house shortly afterward and played drinking games until around midnight, the report said.
Singletary was uneasy about making the dive, his first, according to the report.
“Austin seemed apprehensive about jumping because he hadn’t done it before,” one student said.
“The whole concept of the Mirror Lake jump didn’t seem that appealing to Austin leading up to that night,” another said, according to the report. But the same student didn’t feel Singletary “was peer pressured” into the dive.
Singletary was a third-year student from Dayton. The family declined to comment through their lawyer.
“Austin was a tremendous young man, and they’re dealing with that loss,” attorney William Posey said Monday.
Posey declined to say if the family planned legal action over their son’s death.
Ohio State said it’s committed to ending the jump. Past efforts to control it through gates and wristbands fell short because of the number of students who showed up to the lake, which sits on campus near the OSU oval.
The university’s Student Government General Assembly has also backed ending the event, although some students have been critical of stopping the jump.
The university has consistently discouraged students from drinking or doing drugs in connection with the event, said spokesman Benjamin Johnson.
“Ohio State has long been committed to educating and sharing with students information about safe and responsible alcohol consumption in a variety of ways each academic year,” he said.
Andrew Welsh-Huggins can be reached on Twitter at https://twitter.com/awhcolumbus. His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/andrew-welsh-huggins