NORTHRIDGE (CBSLA.com) — A Cal State Northridge student died while on a fraternity-sponsored hiking trip in the Angeles National Forest.
Armando Villa, 19, was on an overnight hike with several members of Pi Kappa Phi near Big Tujunga Canyon Road around 5:30 p.m. Tuesday when the group ran out of water.
Villa lost consciousness on the trail. The victim’s companions flagged down a forest ranger and Villa was taken to a hospital, where he later died, authorities said.
Villa’s family believes the hike was an initiation that turned into hazing.
“To know that he was out there alone, suffering and we couldn’t do anything; we couldn’t do anything to help him. It’s just wrong,” said the victim’s aunt, Maria Castaneda.
Castaneda said her nephew was left in the forest without shoes and with little water.
When Villa was found, he was unresponsive with blisters on his feet and back.
Villa’s cousins couldn’t believe the man who wanted to be a doctor won’t be coming home.
“He was like our little brother, and it kills us that we weren’t there to protect him like we should have been. It kills me that such a beautiful, bright person, the bright light in our family, spent the last moments of such a beautiful life scared, alone, not understanding why this was happening to him. He didn’t deserve it,” cousin Mark Castaneda said.
Mark said Villa had participated in two other initiation events, but said he planned to leave the fraternity after the last hike.
“He was such a loyal person and he hated to let people down, and he was even telling his parents that he didn’t want to do it anymore,” Mark said.
The family said the university has reached out to offer their condolences.
The school also had the fraternity suspend all activities pending the outcome of the investigation.
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of the student,” said fraternity Chief Executive Officer Mark E. Timmes. “At this time, our primary concern is supporting our members and the student’s family,” added Timmes.
“He didn’t deserve to die this way. He didn’t deserve to die alone and scared and with nobody around him,” cousin Nicholas Marquez said.
Homicide detectives believe Villa’s death was accidental, possibly the result of a heat stroke.
The exact cause of death, however, will be determined by the coroner’s office.