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Family looking for answers after UNLV student died in fraternity’s ‘fight night’ event

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The family of a college junior who died after fighting in a fraternity’s amateur event is looking for answers after a preliminary investigation found that safety precautions were overlooked in connection to the incident.

Nathan Valencia, a 20-year-old student at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV), died on Nov. 23 after participating in the Kappa Sigma fraternity’s annual “fight night,” which took place at an off-campus location, according to 13 Action News.

Valencia, who was a member of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity, was reportedly listed as a contender in the evening’s main event.

The event took place on Nov. 19 at the Sahara Events Center. The fraternity also hosted a press conference and weigh-in the day before the event at the university’s Student Union Ballroom, according to 13 Action News.

Valencia’s girlfriend Lacey Foster told the local news outlet that he collapsed roughly five minutes after the fight had concluded. He was then transported to Sunrise Hospital, where doctors said he was bleeding internally and had injuries that were too severe to survive.

Nick Lasso and Ryan Zimmer, two attorneys representing the Valencia family, told The Hill in a statement that an initial investigation showed that “mistakes were made and safety precautions were overlooked.” 

They specifically said medical help was not available at the event and a professional referee was not present, according to 13 Action News.

The attorneys said the family is now planning to complete a full investigation to determine “how UNLV and the Kappa Sigma Fraternity could allow and promote an event like this to take place.”

“College students should not be placed in a situation where they are pitted against each other for combat,” the lawyers said.

“We will leave no stone unturned to determine how a 20-year-old ended up in a school-sanctioned amateur fight that cost him his life,” they added.

Keith E. Whitfield, the president of UNLV, sent a message to students and faculty Friday afternoon informing them of Valencia’s death.

He also said the university “is committing all available resources to review the incident and determine how off-campus events like these can be as safe as possible.”

Whitfield noted that Kappa Sigma’s “Fight Night” was “intended to raise money.”

Valencia’s family and friends held a vigil for him on Saturday night, 13 Action News reported.

The Kappa Sigma fraternity told The Hill in a statement that it is “greatly saddened” by the death of Valencia, adding that its “deepest condolences, thoughts and prayers are with the Valencia family and the entire UNLV Community.”

Johnny Sao, the manager of communications and public relations for the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity, told The Hill in a statement that the group is “devasted (sic) by the passing of Brother Nathan Valencia from the chapter at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.”

“Our hearts are with his family, our Brothers, and the greater UNLV community during this difficult time,” Sao added.

Valencia’s death is the latest account of fatal incidents taking place at college fraternities throughout the U.S.

Michigan State University suspended one of its fraternities last week after a student died at a party located off campus. The student was found unresponsive by the East Lansing Police Department.

Police said that alcohol could have played a role in the student’s death, but noted that a final autopsy would likely be completed in six to eight weeks.

All fraternity activities were suspended at the University of Missouri-Columbia last month after a student was found irresponsible at a fraternity house on campus. He was later admitted to the hospital with suspected alcohol poisoning.

Additionally, the Phi Gamma Delta chapter was temporarily suspended. 

The Hill reached out to UNLV, Kappa Sigma and Sigma Alpha Epsilon for comment.


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