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Coroner releases name, preliminary cause of death for UK student found unresponsive at fraternity

Published: Oct. 19, 2021 at 9:13 AM EDT
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - Greek life at the University of Kentucky is mourning the alcohol-related death of a student.

Thomas Lofton Hazelwood, 18, was found unresponsive in the FarmHouse Fraternity Monday night. He later died at UK Hospital.

The Fayette County coroner believes his death was from drinking too much alcohol.

UK police told us the incident started when they were called to the fraternity at 6:22 Monday evening for a report of an unresponsive student.

Fayette County Coroner Gary Ginn said Hazelwood died of presumed alcohol toxicity. His death is listed as an accident, but police have opened an investigation.

Other students told us they were shocked.

“He came here three months ago thinking is going to be the best time of his life and then this happens. It’s absolutely awful. But all you can do is just pray for them and hope for the best,” UK student Haley Hart said.

Hazelwood’s mother told us he was an old soul, who never left without saying “I love you.”

The fraternity released this statement about the situation:

We are saddened to share the passing of a University of Kentucky new member of FarmHouse Fraternity. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family, chapter members and the entire community.

We have encouraged all members to cooperate with the investigation. We will provide additional information as it becomes available.

UK spokesperson Jay Blanton says Hazelwood was a first year student majoring in Agricultural Economics. The 18-year-old was from Henderson, in western Kentucky.

“Oh my gosh, I can’t even imagine. The hurt and confusion that they must be going through. Even how to approach something like this,” UK student Hazel Burris said.

That statement from the national headquarters said they have encouraged all members to cooperate with the investigation.

We rang the intercom at the chapter house Tuesday morning. The man who answered told us they had no comment on Hazelwood’s death.

UK’s alcohol policy for Greek life does not allow alcohol in chapter houses or on chapter property. The only exception is for approved events.

Even then, there are other rules that must be followed for “risk reduction” and safety.

UK said all recruitment and new member activities should be alcohol-free.

We’re also tracking alcohol use on campuses across the country. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism follows the trends. It found the first six weeks of freshman year are the most vulnerable for underage drinking.

The group also found that the pandemic changed drinking patterns in students, from socializing to coping.

Tuesday evening, University of Kentucky President Eli Capilouto and UK Vice President for Student Success Kirsten Turner sent the following message to the UK campus community:

Campus Community,

Last night, our community suffered a tragic loss with the death of our student, Thomas “Lofton” Hazelwood.

Lofton, as he was known, was 18 years old and from Henderson, Ky. He was an agricultural economics major. He lived in Lewis Hall and was a new member of his fraternity. He was involved in campus activities and, we know, loved by his family.

In other words, he had all the promise of youth and the potential that comes with it.

We have been in communication with his family and many of the students who knew and loved him.

There aren’t words adequate to convey what so many on our campus feel, the sense of loss and grief, sadness and emptiness. There just isn’t. Words can’t fill that void, nor will we try.

However, what we can convey, and what we can do, is reach out with the support members of our community need during this time and in all the days ahead. That includes Lofton’s family as they are members of our family – not simply today or tomorrow, but always.

We also can – and we will – commit to finding out what happened, how it happened and why. We have conveyed to Lofton’s family that we will move as quickly as possible, but also transparently and comprehensively. We won’t speculate or engage in conjecture, but we will find out.

To that end, here’s what we know thus far and how we are moving forward to understand more fully this tragedy.

First, two investigations have been launched by the university. UK Police already has begun its investigation and is in the process of interviewing people. UK’s Office of Student Conduct also has begun a review. If you know something or have information about what happened, please call UK Police at (859) 323-8477 (TIPS).

Second, when complete, both of these investigations will be made public including any findings and recommendations, subject to necessary redactions to protect the privacy of students. But we will understand better what happened and we will communicate with Lofton’s family and our university family.

Third, as of today, the University has suspended all activities for the FarmHouse Fraternity while these investigations are ongoing. The focus of the chapter – and of university officials involved in this review – needs to remain fixed on understanding what happened and finding answers.

Fourth, as has been communicated to a number of groups throughout last evening and today, we are reaching out with the appropriate levels of support – counseling and other services – for those students and groups who are impacted by this horrible event.

  • More information about our counseling center’s services can be found at https://www.uky.edu/counselingcenter/.
  • You can also reach the counseling center at 24/7 at (859) 257-8701. If you are calling the counseling center after hours, press 1 from the menu of options to be connected to a clinician.
  • Additionally, the counseling center hosts a regular series of drop-in sessions at locations around campus as part of the “Let’s Talk” series. Information on this series can be found at the counseling center’s website.
  • Remember that if you are concerned about any member of the UK community, you can submit a report to the Center for Support and Intervention here: https://cm.maxient.com/reportingform.php?UnivofKentucky&layout_id=100.

What happened is unspeakably tragic, but that should never stop us from reaching out to each other to talk, to listen and to offer support. We all need help at times, never more so than when those things that are seemingly unimaginable actually happen.

Life is fragile and precious. Too often, we realize that far too late. So, while we cannot heal such a loss or fill the emptiness that we know so many feel right now, we can be there for each other a little more tomorrow than we are today, and we can commit to finding answers.

That is the project, as a community, that we will undertake together.

Eli Capilouto                                           Kirsten Turner

President                                               Vice President for Student Success

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