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Injured Occidental Freshman Accepts Blame for Accident

March 02, 1989|LISA TURNER | Times Staff Writer

A freshman at Occidental College who fractured his skull after falling from a fraternity house stairway in an apparently alcohol-related accident in January is "fully recovered" and said he doesn't blame the college or the fraternity.

"It was my own fault," said Derek Burres, 19. He said he called the dean and told her that the school and Alpha Tau Omega weren't responsible for what happened to him.

In response to the incident, the Occidental administration withheld rush activities from the fraternity and required that members make themselves available on campus to drive students who have been drinking, according to Todd Keithahn, fraternity president.

School officials said they consider the case closed.

Burres has been recuperating at his father's home in Newburg, Ore. Jim Burres said his son suffered no permanent damage and will return to Occidental for the spring quarter, which begins March 20.

Derek Burres fell from a stairway landing at the ATO house in January. According to fraternity members, he had been dropped off at his dormitory after a pledge dinner at which he was not drinking.

ATO residents said he arrived at the house several hours later. Derek Burres said he and other fraternity members were playing a drinking game called "quarters" and drinking whiskey straight out of the bottle. He said he then tripped going out a door on the second floor and fell off the stairway landing over the railing.

"I knew what I was doing," he said. "I may have appeared drunk but I was in control. I blame it on a lack of coordination."

He was treated and held at County-USC Medical Center for a fractured skull before going to his home in Oregon.

Derek Burres' parents said they don't blame the college or the fraternity for the accident.

'It was a freak accident," his mother, Kay Burres, said. "It could have happened to anyone."

"The reality of it is it's my son's responsibility," Jim Burres said. "He was drinking on his own--no one was making him."

Jim Burres said that he is satisfied with the way Occidental handled the situation, and that he has no plans for a lawsuit.

"It wasn't the college's fault, and it wasn't the fault of the fraternity," he said. "Everyone today is looking for the deep pockets. But somewhere along the line you have to take responsibility for your actions and not try to lay it on someone else."

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