North Carolina fraternity suspended after college student falls out of party bus and dies
A University of North Carolina at Charlotte fraternity chapter has been suspended by its national organization in the aftermath of the death of a student who boarded a party bus on Tuesday night, May 1, according to WSOC and WBTV.
Polly Rogers, 20, died after falling out of the bus and into the street, where she was struck by two vehicles, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police said in a statement. The party bus had been rented by the local chapter of the Kappa Sigma fraternity, WSOC reported.
On Thursday, May 3, the fraternity's national organization said it had suspended its Kappa-Omega Chapter on the Charlotte campus, according to WSOC and WBTV. In a statement obtained by WBTV, the organization said:
"The Brothers of the Kappa Sigma Fraternity are deeply saddened by the tragic loss of Polly Rogers. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Rogers family and to her loved ones. The Kappa Sigma Fraternity has suspended the operations of our Kappa-Omega Chapter at the University of North Carolina Charlotte, and we are in the process of conducting an investigation of the event on Tuesday evening. The Kappa Sigma Fraternity will fully cooperate with all investigations of the University and local authorities."
The Charlotte chapter of the fraternity posted a statement on its Facebook page: "The Kappa-Omega chapter of Kappa Sigma is currently grieving in the loss of a dear friend, Polly Rogers. Please out of the respect of this difficult time our members are dealing with refer any questions to our national office. ... send prayers to her family and friends. ..."
Rogers had boarded the party bus on campus around 10:30 p.m. and was heading to an uptown bar when she fell out. It had been the last day of classes on the campus, where she was a sophomore.
Police said went out of an emergency window on the right side of the bus and landed in the road's center lane.
One witness told WBTV he tried to slow cars down, but drivers kept ignoring him.
"Cars would just keep driving fast when they see us literally in the middle of the road," the witness said, adding that he turned on his phone's flashlight to alert motorists and yelled at them to stop.
Rogers was pronounced dead at the scene by emergency medical services, police said.
"Speed is not a factor in this crash," the police statement said.
The incident remains under investigation.
A father of one of the other students on the bus told WSOC-TV he didn't think Rogers did anything wrong.
"All she did was lean against the window," he said.
Video footage of the aftermath showed an empty gray bus stopped on the side of the street with its hazard lights flashing. Passengers huddled in groups nearby, some hugging and others making phone calls. Emergency lights from police cars cast a flickering blue glow over the scene, which was cordoned off by yellow police tape.
About 55 people were on the bus at the time of the incident, WBTV reported.
The bus is owned by Charlotte Party Charters, a company based in Charlotte, police said in the statement. Party buses are a common mode of transportation for young people going to events such as prom or college formals.
"Thirteen years that we've operated, we've never had anything like this happen and it's overwhelming," Victor Rabb, the bus company's owner told WBTV. Rabb provided an explanation to WBTV for what he believed happened.
"Well, what had happened is someone pulled the emergency window," Rabb said. "The window, of course, popped open, and she fell out of the bus."
In light of the incident, the bus company is temporarily suspending operations, Rabb told WFAE.
"I don't know what could have been done differently," he said. "It's something that's never happened before."
Many who knew Rogers mourned her death after the incident.
In a tweet Wednesday afternoon, WSOC-TV's Paul Boyd captured footage of dozens of students, many holding flowers, walking in silence toward a house where Rogers's friends were reportedly gathered.
Rogers was studying special education and was a member of the university's chapter of Zeta Tau Alpha sorority, according to a statement Wednesday from Kevin Bailey, the vice chancellor for student affairs.
In a Facebook post, the sorority hailed Rogers as "an emerging leader."
"Polly was the friendliest person you would ever meet in your life," chapter president Alexis Marie Burns said in the post. "She could always be found in the common areas of the house greeting sisters after their day at classes and making sure their day was going great."
A GoFundMe campaign to raise money for Rogers's memorial was also launched by members of her sorority. As of early Thursday morning, more than $13,500 had been donated, eclipsing the original $7,000 goal.
On Twitter, friends left touching tributes to Rogers. A user wrote, "One of the most radiant and kind hearted people I've ever met, I am so proud to have been able to call her a friend."
Story by Allyson Chiu. Chiu is a reporter with The Washington Post's Morning Mix team. She has previously contributed to the South China Morning Post and the Pacific Daily News.