A Fresno State student who died at a fraternity house Wednesday apparently suffered an accidental overdose, Fresno police Chief Jerry Dyer said Thursday.
Omar Nemeth, 19, died after abusing Xanax and smoking marijuana for about a day, Dyer said. A bag containing 583 Xanax pills, which are commonly used to treat anxiety, was found with Nemeth. About an ounce of marijuana and two bottles of Promethazine, an antihistamine sometimes abused for its sedative qualities, also were found.
Nemeth, his 16-year-old brother and Nemeth’s 17-year-old girlfriend were taking the pills and smoking marijuana for most of the day Tuesday, Dyer said. About 3 a.m. Wednesday, the group went to the Delta Sigma Phi fraternity house at 5209 N. Millbrook Ave. near Bulldog Lane. Nemeth was not a member of the fraternity, but he met a friend there who was a member.
Dyer said Nemeth, his brother and girlfriend and three fraternity members then took Xanax and smoked marijuana from 3 a.m. to 5 a.m., when the group members retired to separate rooms to sleep.
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The chief said Nemeth’s 16-year-old brother found him unresponsive and slumped over a couch in one of the house’s bedrooms around 1 p.m. Several fraternity members performed CPR, but Nemeth remained unconscious. His brother then told fraternity members not to call 911.
Instead, they put Nemeth in a wheeled office chair and moved him to a friend’s car. The friend took Nemeth to Saint Agnes Medical Center. Police were called to the fraternity house around 2:30 p.m., and Nemeth was pronounced dead at the hospital at 2:38 p.m.
Dyer stressed that this was not a fraternity hazing or party issue. Nemeth apparently used Xanax habitually for at least six months, the chief said. Investigators will be looking into how Nemeth obtained such a large number of prescription pills.
Alcohol does not appear to be a factor, though there was alcohol at the scene. Nemeth’s body also did not show signs of trauma, Dyer added.
The Fresno County Coroner’s Office will conduct an autopsy to determine the official cause of death after it receives the results of toxicology tests. Dyer said this will likely take about four weeks.
According to Fresno State, Nemeth was a sophomore majoring in biochemistry.
Frank Lamas, the university’s vice president for student affairs, put out a statement Thursday afternoon on the loss.
“When our students arrive at Fresno State, they are filled with hopes and dreams for their future,” Lamas said. “I know the loss of Omar’s life is deeply felt by all of us.”
Lamas asked any students in need of counseling services to call 559-278-2734.
Nemeth’s death could jeopardize Delta Sigma Phi’s future, as previous Fresno State fraternity house deaths have been met with punishment that eventually led to the dissolution of local chapters.
In 2006, Danny Ray Daniels, 19, died in his room at the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity house. Authorities learned he had a blood-alcohol level of 0.34 – more than four times the legal limit – but no charges were filed. The university suspended Phi Gamma Delta for five years. According to the fraternity’s website, it no longer has a chapter at Fresno State.
In 2012, 18-year-old Theta Chi fraternity pledge Philip Dhanen died after he drank 37 1-ounce shots of hard liquor at a fraternity party. Two fraternity brothers, Leonard Louis Serrato and Aaron Joseph Raymo, and the fraternity’s president, Daniel Woodward Baker, served short jail sentences for negligence. The Theta Chi national chapter revoked the Fresno State chapter’s charter, and the university no longer recognizes any local Theta Chi chapter.
In 2013, Fresno State delayed the fraternity and sorority rush week and placed signs throughout the campus in an attempt to curb binge drinking.