Fraternity Fall Leaves O.U. Student in Critical Condition

Ohio University. March 11, 1989: (Phi Gamma Delta Housemother)

One of those crises situations one hopes will never happen occurred at 2 a.m. March 10, 1989.  I had stayed up late and was finally dozing in my apartment when Chris Brady, the President came to my door and said, “Mom, there’s a problem.”  Someone has fallen from the roof and the emergency squad is here.”   (I asked who it was and he said Tedd Sisunik.) I slipped into a heavy bathrobe and as I walked through the House I observed small clusters of young male and female students crying and talking.  I walked out the front door and around to the driveway and saw Tedd lying in a large pool of blood on the concrete sidewalk.  I have always thought that a person would die instantly if he fell from a roof like ours, and I assumed he must be dead since he was lying quietly at the moment.  But then he began to talk and try to move and I was shocked by his terrible condition.  His face was a bloody pulp  and his cries of pain were…………………(I scratched out the words I originally wrote and wrote, “terrible to hear,” so I guess I had trouble describing them.)  I went toward him since I wanted to hold him or try to comfort him, but the emergency worker told me I would have to get back as they were bringing some equipment.  I stayed there a few minutes, but each time they moved him, tried to brace his neck or otherwise stabilize him, he screamed or cried in such pain that I finally walked into the House. As I entered the foyer I found Mike McClain, who had seen Tedd fall past the TV room window and jumped out the window to try to help him, as he told me later.  Mike was crouched over in a heap on the stairs leading to the second floor sobbing.  I went up and sat next to him and gathered him into my arms as he continued to sob.  He was covered with Tedd’s blood and after a few minutes he became concerned that he would get blood on my robe but I told him it was okay  and he fell back into my arms and cried for several more minutes.  After he settled down we talked for a few minutes and that’s when he told me what had happened

After I left Mike I walked through the House and there were persons needing reassurance and comfort.  Some had been drinking uptown since there had been no party at the House that night and the bars had closed at 2 a.m. Some were so drunk that it did require most of my patience to stand quietly by and listen to them while Tedd’s screams still pierced the air.  But I didn’t want his cries to end because it meant he was still alive.  They were even louder as I walked into my apartment to call the House Corporation President. I also wanted to get away from Ted’s screams because I couldn’t comfort him and they weren’t giving him anything for the pain. (I’m sure they couldn’t under the circumstances,) I didn’t want to hear him crying like that.  Had he been one of the boys I knew well I believe I would have had much harder time emotionally.  As it was, I barely knew Tedd and it was only my training as a newspaper reporter that kept me as calm as I was. David Slater’s line was busy.  I suspect someone had already called him. I really needed to speak to some of the leadership so at 3 a.m. I called Tom Beckerman, a member of the board.  Sometime between 2:00 a.m. and 3 a.m. we called Tedd’s parents after we were sure that the police or hospital had notified them.  I phoned them and had the Chapter President, Chris Brady, speak to Tedd’s father when he answered the phone.  I know that was hard for Chris, but I also knew things were going to get a lot harder in the days to come and that we couldn’t hide from the press or University officials. Tedd was taken to our local hospital and later flown by helicopter to Grant Medical Center in Columbus, Ohio.   I called the administrator of the Athens hospital, Rick Castrop, at his home around 3 a.m. I knew Rick because I worked for the Athens newspaper and he was very helpful and said he would get me a medical report.  He later called me back and said Tedd had severe internal injuries, two broken wrists and severe skull fractures.His liver was damaged causing internal bleeding, his lungs had collapsed and there were many other injuries they would discover later, but the first issue was saving his life. When I called the Athens emergency room to respond to a policeman’s questions I could still hear Tedd screaming in the background.  I kept wondering how much longer he could handle that and I pray to God he never remembers it.  About 4 a.m. he was flown to Columbus which was not far away and a few of the Fraternity members immediately left for Columbus. Tedd would eventually undergo some six hours of surgery and when that was over he was in a coma with multiple, severe skull fractures.  Most of the other injuries had been repaired during his life-saving surgery including a massive tear to his liver.  He had lost a good deal of blood but he was still alive. The hardest thing, in the days that followed, was the lack of information.  For various legal reasons, we were told not to discuss the incident with anyone and the Columbus Hospital would not take my phone calls.  After a few months, I gave up trying to get information about Tedd and decided to leave a town and a job I really had loved. It also meant dropping out of OU without that Journalism degree I coveted.  When I arrived in Lexington, Va. to start my new job at the Sigma Chi Fraternity House in 1994, one of the first things I did was have the name of our House posted in English as well as Greek words.  I was always fearful that an accident could occur and the ambulance would have trouble finding the Houses.  Later I worked with Washington and Lee Maintenance to see that house numbers were clearly placed on all the buildings as required by city ordinance. I never really got over the trauma of Tedd’s fall, and often blamed myself for the fact that Tedd or anyone else had access to the roof. The young man who was House Manager for the Chapter felt the same guilt. (Only a 2015 update will make me feel any better about the tragic events of what had started out as a peaceful Spring term in Athens, Ohio.)


3 thoughts on “Fraternity Fall Leaves O.U. Student in Critical Condition

  1. Alaina says:

    Tedd was my neighbor in Wooster. Very nice, down to earth guy. Ive been trying to get in touch with him myself and came across your blog.


    • Since the fraternity members and I were not family, the Columbus Hospital would not give me any information. There wasn’t any follow-up in the newspapers and a curtain of silence seemed to fall. I’m sure you can guess why. I had hoped someone would respond to the blog and tell me how badly he was injured and whether or not he recovered fully, but no one ever did. Sorry I can’t help you.


  2. ALAINA says:

    Maybe I should have been more clear. He was my neighbor long after the accident. He was doing well then. From what he said there were several broken bones and internal injuries. Just a really good, kind person with a few scars.

    Liked by 1 person

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