The five, ranging in ages from 19 to 22, were among a group of 10 who had gathered behind the Kappa Sigma Fraternity house at 357 Ebenezer Ave. Sunday to replicate dry ice stunts seen in videos that officials said apparently have been making the rounds on television and the internet in recent times. Rock Hill police report that some of their officers were already near the fraternity house, investigating another matter, when they heard an explosion of a magnitude "that made it obvious it was not fireworks." They found dry ice and other materials used to make soda bottles explode at the scene. Following investigation, four of the 10 who had gathered there were released at the scene, while six were taken to police headquarters. One of the six later was released without charges.
Held on charges of possession and use of a destructive device and criminal conspiracy and later released on bond are alumni member Matthew Phillps, 22, 10605 Kettering Dr.; Justin Schweizer, 22, 363 Ebenezer Ave.; and three residents of 357 Ebenezer Ave.: Robert Nance, 21; Keith Patterson, 20; and Eric Fockler, 19.
Winthrop University officials said the four current students will face campus disciplinary measures separate from the pending criminal charges, with suspension or expulsion possible. Officials said the Kappa Sigma national organization Monday placed the Winthrop chapter on "social suspension," meaning the organization may hold no social activities until further notice and must cancel any activities already planned. University officials praised the national organization for its swift action.
"These Internet videos make these stunts look like the equivalent of setting off fireworks, but we’re finding in looking into this that there have been some serious and permanent injuries reported nationally," warned Frank Ardaiolo, vice president for student life at Winthrop. "We will add this to the list of dangerous behaviors that we warn our students about, and I would encourage parents of teens to do the same. As the charges placed against these individuals demonstrate, the consequences of this kind of stunt can be life-changing, even when no physical injuries have occurred. We appreciate the immediate action of the national Kappa Sigma organization in this matter."
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