Parents of Drowned UNR Student File Lawsuit

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The parents of a University of Nevada, Reno freshman pledge who drowned in 2002 have sued the university and the fraternity.

The lawsuit says Albert Santos, 18, of Las Vegas drowned after he and seven other Pi Kappa Alpha pledges were told to strip to their underwear and swim around the fountain in Manzanita Lake on the university campus.

Santos could not swim.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages, claiming the school, the fraternity and 11 members of the Iota Eta chapter were negligent.

University attorney Brooke Neilsen said the school denies responsibility in the death.

After the incident, the university banned the fraternity from campus and suspended an undisclosed number of its members.

The case isn't scheduled to go to trial until January because of the large number of defendants involved.

Dale Hayes, one of three Las Vegas lawyers representing Santos' mother Editha Day, the plaintiff in the case, disagrees with Neilsen.

"It's our belief that this was an annual tradition of what's called the Plunge, and we think the evidence will support that Manzanita Lake has been used in the past by this fraternity for this type of event," Hayes said.

After an investigation into Santos' death, the Washoe County district attorney decided not to file criminal charges against fraternity members involved in the incident.

A state law passed in 1999 makes hazing on high school and college campuses a criminal offense.

But prosecutors determined Santos and the other pledges were not forced to take part in a fraternity hazing and voluntarily decided to make the swim in the chilly waters of the lake on Oct. 10, 2002.