Sheriff: No indication hazing played a part in Clemson death - FOX Carolina 21

Sheriff: No indication hazing played a part in Clemson student's death

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Tucker Hipps (Source: CNN iReport) Tucker Hipps (Source: CNN iReport)
Tucker Hipps (Source: Wren High School football) Tucker Hipps (Source: Wren High School football)
The sheriff's office said the young man's body was pulled from the water near Highway 93 just after 5 p.m. (Sept. 22, 2014/FOX Carolina) The sheriff's office said the young man's body was pulled from the water near Highway 93 just after 5 p.m. (Sept. 22, 2014/FOX Carolina)
CLEMSON, SC (FOX Carolina) -

The body of a Clemson University student was pulled from the water near the college campus on Monday afternoon, according to the Oconee County Sheriff's Office.

Oconee County Sheriff's Office spokesperson Jimmy Watt said Clemson University police found the body at 3:30 p.m. under the Highway 93 bridge that runs over the Seneca River portion of Lake Hartwell near the school and YMCA beach.

Watt said the man's body was discovered near the shore in a rocky area under the bridge in about 4 to 5 feet of water. The body was pulled from the water just after 5 p.m.

Coroner Karl Addis identified the victim as 19-year-old Tucker Hipps, of Piedmont.

Addis said Hipps had been reported missing to campus police on Monday afternoon and was discovered by the university officer looking for him.

Clemson University spokesperson John Gouch said Hipps was reported missing at 1:45 p.m. on Monday by members of his fraternity. Click here to read the university's full statement regarding Hipps' death.

Gouch said Hipps participated in an early-morning activity run with fraternity members but did not return and was not at breakfast, so brothers began looking for him before reporting him missing.

According to a spokesperson with the national office of Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity, Hipps was a member and sophomore at the university.

The Oconee County Sheriff's Office is conducting an investigation into the death, according to Watt.

After an autopsy was completed, Addis said the cause of death was due to a head injury consistent with an unsupported fall.

He said the injury is consistent with Hipps falling from one of the spans which is approximately 20 to 23 feet above the water's surface.

Addis said there is no ruling on the manner of death at this time as they await the law enforcement investigation and toxicology analysis which could take several weeks.

Sheriff Mike Crenshaw release a statement on Tuesday saying there has been no indication in their investigation that hazing played a part in the student's death. He emphasized the investigation is ongoing.

Read the sheriff's full statement here.

"We are cooperating and will conduct our own investigation," said Gail DiSabatino, Clemson University vice president for student affairs.

Gouch said the presidents of the 24-member fraternities of the Interfraternity Council voted to suspend education activities for new members until further notice in the wake of Hipps' death.

SigEp's national communications manager Rob Jepson said they are aware of allegations on social media that Hipps' death may have been linked to hazing in some way and said the fraternity has a zero tolerance policy. Jepson said they are investigating those claims.

Click here to read the full statement from the national office of Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity.

"We've lost the life of a young man, a life that was taken away too soon," said SigEp CEO Brian Warren. "There are a lot of people who are hurting right now, that's our number one priority at the moment. But if foul play was involved in any way, Tucker's fraternity will do everything it can to see that those responsible are brought to justice."

Jepson said the national office has asked Clemson's SigEp chapter to suspend all scheduled programming to focus on those close to Hipps.

Students, colleges show support in wake of loss

Hipps was a 2013 graduate of Wren High School and played on the football team as a defensive back.

Fellow students and friends have taken to social media to share their condolences and solidarity across college campuses in the wake of Hipps' death.

A candlelight vigil for Hipps is planned for 8 p.m. Tuesday on Bowman Field. At the University of South Carolina, Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity said students plan to gather at 9 p.m. at the Horseshoe to pay their respects.

And according to a CNN iReport, students will wear orange on Tuesday at Clemson and other campuses across the South in a sign of solidarity and support for Hipps and the university.

Several streams on Twitter, Facebook and other sites are showing the outpour of grief and love for Hipps with hashtags including #OneState and #Orange4Tucker.

A close friend and fraternity brother, who did not want to be identified, did speak on how highly he thought of Hipps. 

"Tucker was a wonderful person and a brother to me. Me and my fraternity loved him so much and he had the best, most positive outlook on life as anybody I've ever met. My life got better every single time I saw him and anybody else who knew him will tell you the same. People like him don't come around but once in a lifetime. And it's a tragedy he is gone."

Leaders at Sigma Phi Epsilon and Clemson officials echoed those sentiments.

"This is a time for mourning, and our hearts and prayers are with the Hipps family," Warren said.

"We're terribly saddened by Tucker's death," DiSabatino said. "It's always tragic when someone so young and promising is lost. Our hearts go out to his family and friends."

The university is providing grief counseling to students.

Click here to read Anderson School District One's statement on the student's death.

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