A 19-year-old Clemson University student plunged to his death off of a bridge after he angered his fraternity brothers by not bringing them McDonald's breakfast, a new pair of lawsuits allege.
The lawsuits, filed by the family of Tucker Hipps on Monday, each ask for $25 million in damages.
Gary and Cynthia Hipps filed the lawsuits, which for the first time name one of the students involved in the incident as Samuel Carney, the son of Democratic U.S. Rep. John Carney of Delaware. Also named in the suits are fraternity brothers Thomas King and Campbell Star, the school, and Sigma Phi Epsilon.
Hipps' body was found floating in Hartwell Lake on Sept. 23, 2014. The school said in a press release at the time that Hipps vanished while on a group run with his fraternity.
The lawsuits are not specific about what actually caused Hipps to fall into the water, but make damning new allegations about the actions of the fraternity brothers directly before and after he fell.
Hipps was the only child of his parents, who described him in the lawsuits as an accomplished high school athlete and a "bright young man."
Hipps enrolled at Clemson in the fall of 2014, and soon began rushing the fraternity. He was then appointed pledge class president, which required he act as a "liaison" between the pledges and the active brothers.
Part of rushing the fraternity, according to the lawsuits, was performing menial tasks for the brothers such as running errands, cleaning, and buying food, which required pledges to spend their own money. As the head of his pledge class, Hipps often arranged such tasks.
In September, Sigma Phi Epsilon learned it may be suspended from campus for suspected "hazing and sexual misconduct," the lawsuits say.
Members contacted the school and asked if they could conduct an early-morning group run, which is against hazing policy. They did not hear back, so decided to go ahead, according to the lawsuit.
A fraternity brother named Bryan Golnek then allegedly texted Hipps and asked him to bring 30 McDonald's biscuits, 30 McDonald's hash browns, and 2 gallons of chocolate milk to the fraternity house before the run.
Hipps allegedly responded he didn't have enough money to pay for all of the food. He was told to get his pledge brothers to help, but the group showed up to the run without the food.
The lawsuits charge that while on the run, Golnek angrily called King and told him the pledges hadn't brought the breakfast.
King then "confronted" Hipps, according to the lawsuits.
"Subsequently, Tucker went over the railing of the bridge into the shallow water of Lake Hartwell head first," the lawsuits charge.
The lawsuits also claim that the fraternity had a tradition of "requiring, pressuring, encouraging, and forcing" pledges to jump off the bridge.
King allegedly shined the flashlight on his cell phone into the water and called Starr. He stayed for a while shining his flashlight into the water, but eventually headed back with the pledges, Carney, and Starr, according to the the lawsuits.
None of the three students took any "action to discover the whereabouts of Tucker or his well-being," the lawsuits state.
After Hipps didn't show up, the brothers and the pledges allegedly began calling friends and driving around looking for him.
In the meantime, one of the pledges, Tyler Stanley, allegedly texted Hipps' girlfriend, Katie Clouse, and told her Hipps had been seen in the library so she would not be alarmed and alert Hipps' parents, the lawsuits state.
Stanley indicated that his text should "help buy time," the lawsuits claim.
Starr allegedly waited more than seven hours before contacting the Clemson police and informing them Hipps was missing. Afterward, Starr and King allegedly tried to delete calls from their phone.
Hipps' death sparked outrage on the campus, with many students speculating that he had died during hazing. Police are still investigating Hipps' death.
Rep. Carney and his wife Tracey said in a statement to BuzzFeed News that they feel nothing but "sympathy" toward the Hipps family.
"Our advice to Sam since the tragedy in September has been to tell the truth and remember that any detail might help," they said. "That continues to be our message to him."
The university suspended 24 of its fraternities after Hipps' death, and in December fired its vice president of student affairs.
A university spokesperson told BuzzFeed News that the school has not yet been served with the lawsuits, but are aware they exist. She said the school is not commenting on the pending litigation.
The Clemson chapter of Sigma Phi Epsilon has been suspended from the school for five years.
Tucker Hipps' father is named Gary. An earlier version of this post misstated his name as Greg.
Stephanie McNeal is a social news editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
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