Wade and Kathleen Wiant are living their worst nightmare. They say their son died from fraternity hazing and want to keep other parents from similar pain and heartache.
It’s been nearly four months since Collin Wiant died. The Wiants say Collin was excited about starting his college life at Ohio University and are incredibly saddened and angry by the loss, and say his death should never have happened.
“I heard a knock at the door and went down and saw it was a police officer,” said Collin’s mother, Kathleen Wiant. It was a morning last November when police came to the Wiant’s home to tell them Collin had passed away just two hours earlier.
“He told us that our son was found dead at a frat house at OU and it didn’t make sense I still can’t believe it,” said Kathleen Wiant.
A coroner ruled asphyxiation due to nitrous oxide ingestion as the cause of death. The Wiant's attorney says whippit canisters were found around his body at 45 Mill Street, the unofficial annex of the Sigma Pi Epsilon fraternity at Ohio University. The family has filed a lawsuit against the fraternity and at least 10 other people, detailing some of the hazing they say their son was subject to before his death.
“He should have never have been in that situation and should never had been pushed to do those whippits,” said Collin’s father, Wade Wiant.
The summer before, Kathleen remembers talking to Collin about pledging. “The one thing I know is I talked to him extensively about hazing because I was afraid of hazing,” said Kathleen Wiant.
She says it wasn’t from personal experience. Both Wade and Kathleen went to Ohio University and both had been a part of Greek life, "They challenged us they made us better people.”
“From my experience, it wasn’t uncommon to go out and maybe do somebody’s laundry or something like that it wasn’t chugging a bottle of vodka or being physically abused or mentally abused,” said Wade Wiant.
Last September, Collin became a pledge for the Sigma Pi Espilon Chapter. He returned home twice after that, and one visit stands out to his father. “Ten minutes into it he was completely asleep on the couch and my dad said I’ve never seen him so tired,” said Wade Wiant.
The Wiants say they later found out Collin was acing senior level courses for the fraternity members to his own academic demise.
“They forced him to do Xanax and things, so he could stay up all night, so he could study for the tests for the juniors and seniors,” said Kathleen Wiant. A wrongful death lawsuit claims Collin was also repeatedly beaten and mentally abused.
“It’s senseless; it’s not brotherhood, it’s not leadership, it’s not caring for another individual, it’s complete lack of respect for human dignity,” said Wade Wiant.
The Wiants say Collin was known for selfless acts and a kind heart. “It was that smile that was his calling card from day one,” said Wade Wiant.
What they say he endured while pledging was far from the young man they knew.
“A kid like Collin who is so self-confident and so has it together academically, socially he fell into that, that’s the terrifying thing,” said Wade Wiant. The Wiant family says that is why it’s now their mission to keep others from the same fate.
“We are determined to do everything we possibly can to change that framework that structure of systems and processes that allowed this to happen,” said Kathleen Wiant.
Kathleen says those who were with Collin should find the courage to step forward. “Own what you did and be honest about what other people did. Don’t be a coward, because someone died of this and that’s the very least you can do now to make it right,” said Kathleen Wiant.
Holidays and birthdays haven’t and will never be the same for the Wiants. They say they rely on their faith and heartfelt messages about Collin from family, friends and strangers.
“Our hearts are broken and some days for me at least it’s profound sadness I miss him it’s hard to fathom that I’ll never be able to see him again,” said Wade Wiant.
Collin’s return trip to Athens after his last visit home is crushing.
“I hugged him and I said to him make me proud, always make me proud. He gave me a hug and he said 'Dad you know I always will,' and I started to head to the door and for some odd reason I turned around and watched him get on the bus, and I watched the bus leave until I couldn’t see the tail lights anymore, and I didn’t know that would be the last time I would see him,” said Wade Wiant.
If you have information that could help Collin’s parents in their search for answers, they are urging you to speak up. They say no detail is too small to share with their attorney, Rex Elliott at Cooper & Elliott at 614-481-6000.