Local News

Monday, Oct 01 2012 06:13 PM

Garces grad died from complications of acute intoxication

BY STEVEN MAYER Californian staff writer smayer@bakersfield.com

Garces Memorial High School graduate turned Fresno State freshman Philip Dhanens died of complications of acute alcohol intoxication, the Fresno County Coroner's Office said Monday.

Dhanens, 18, of Bakersfield, a Theta Chi pledge, died at a Fresno hospital Sept. 2, less than two days after a night of drinking at the off-campus frat house.

His blood-alcohol level was 0.36 percent, more than four times the legal driving limit of 0.08, said Fresno County Coroner David Hadden. A level of 0.40 is generally enough to kill someone, Hadden said, but a light- or non-drinker with little tolerance for alcohol may be more vulnerable than a regular drinker. And Dhanens was not believed to be a party drinker.

"He was a huge guy, so he must have consumed a large amount of alcohol," he said.

Dhanens experienced symptoms of cerebral edema, a dangerous swelling of the brain, as a result of his alcohol consumption, Hadden told The Californian.

"People say he would have been alright if someone had just kept an eye on him, but that's not necessarily the case," Hadden said.

Despite persistent rumors that Dhanens may have aspirated or inhaled his own vomit, Hadden said his staff checked specifically for evidence of such aspiration and found none.

The 6 foot, 5 inch, 320-pound former defensive lineman for the Garces Rams had just begun his college career at Fresno State when he pledged with the fraternity. His death left his family and large numbers of friends and former classmates grieving. A funeral Mass held in mid-September at St. Philip the Apostle Church was filled to overflowing.

The autopsy results took longer than normal because additional tests were performed to determine whether Dhanens had any evidence of drugs in his system. Those tests came back negative, Hadden said.

Meanwhile, Theta Chi's recognition by the university and by the fraternity's national organization remains suspended, at least until Fresno police and university officials finish their investigation into Dhanens' death, the Fresno Bee reported.

Dhanens' death is Fresno State's first such fatality since early 2006, when 19-year-old Danny Daniels Jr. was found dead in a room at the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity house, according to the Bee.

Daniels had a blood-alcohol level of .34 -- just slightly less than Dhanens. Fresno police said Daniels died after drinking at a Phi Gamma Delta party that was attended by as many as 70 people.

Phi Gamma Delta received a five-year ban from the university; the chapter has not been re-established at Fresno State.

The Fresno coroner said he hopes students and parents alike will learn from this tragedy.

"This is the kind of information that needs to get out to young people," Hadden said. "They need to know there are direct consequences to drinking games and anything that encourages consumption of large amounts of alcohol.

"It ruins lives," he said.

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