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Parents of Clemson University student think fraternity hazing led to his death

The body of Clemson University freshman and Sigma Phi Epsilon pledge Tucker Hipps was found floating under a bridge in South Carolina’s Lake Hartwell last September.

In the six months that followed, questions have surfaced about the circumstances surrounding his death and if it was linked to fraternity hazing.

On Monday, Hipps’ parents filed two $25 million lawsuits against fraternity members and run organizers Thomas King, Campbell Starr and Samuel Carney — the son of Delaware Rep. John Carney — the South Carolina Beta chapter of Sig Ep, as well as the national organization, and Clemson University.

On Wednesday, the Sig Ep national fraternity denied allegations of wrongdoing in Hipps’ death.

Hipps’ parents allege that Hipps — who was elected pledge class president — was ordered to bring “30 McDonald’s biscuits, 30 McDonald’s hash browns, and [two] gallons of chocolate milk” to fraternity members before a 5:30 a.m. run. When he was unable to deliver upon this request, he “went over the railing of the bridge into the shallow waters of Lake Hartwell head first” as part of a hazing tradition.

Hipps’ parents also allege that defendant King shined a flashlight over the water after Clemson’s descent, but did not take further action to find him. After Sigma Phi Epsilon pledges and fraternity members returned to campus, King told the pledges that the run was “not hazing.” At 11:15 a.m., King told his fraternity brothers that Hipps was missing, and a report was made with university police at 1:15 p.m. — seven hours after the run.

According to Hipps’ toxicology report, he was not intoxicated the night before or morning of the run.

The run was organized after fraternity members learned that their chapter was going to be suspended for suspected “hazing and sexual misconduct.”

In December, Clemson University fired Gail DiSabatino, the school’s vice president of student affairs.

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