On Feb. 11, University of Southern Mississippi student and Pi Kappa Phi Fraternity member Cole Whaley died of “blunt force injuries” at the DoubleTree hotel located at 300 Canal St. in New Orleans, according to Orleans Parish Coroner Jeffrey Rouse.
According to NOLA.com, NOPD reports stated Whaley fell through a closed 11th-story window and landed in an outdoor area located on the fourth floor near the hotel pool.
According to the incident report and NOLA.com, witnesses said Whaley was “highly intoxicated” and was ramming the window with his right shoulder as a joke. Whaley allegedly shouted, “Let’s go swimming,” before the window shattered. Whaley allegedly swore as he fell.
Police found Whaley lying on his back near the swimming pool and a patio chair, according to the report and NOLA.com. Whaley was pronounced dead at the scene at 1:07 a.m.
One witness said Whaley had expressed interest in getting a view of the pool. Another witness alleged he warned Whaley to stop when the window’s glass began to bend, according to NOLA.com.
A witness who claimed to have been in the room when the window broke said Whaley began “yelling and screaming and then out of nowhere [jumped] out of the window,” according to the report and NOLA.com. Police said the witness was “distraught.”
“Findings from the autopsy performed by my office on Mr. Whaley reveal injuries consistent with reported circumstances including multiple skull fractures and subdural hemorrhage,” Rouse said.
According to Rouse, Whaley’s preliminary cause of death has been classified as “blunt force injuries.” Toxicology test results are pending.
A spokeswoman for the the coroner’s office said New Orleans police had initially classified the death as unusual but later classified it as a Signal 29, or death.
Vice President for Student Affairs Tom Burke said students may contact his office at 601-266- 5020 for related assistance.
“Cole Whaley will forever be remembered as an intelligent, kind and valued member of the Southern Miss community,” Burke said. “As we all try to make sense of this tragic accident, the university will continue to do all that it can to support Cole’s Pi Kappa Phi brothers, his family and friends and all affected USM students.”
Funeral services for Whaley were held Feb. 15 at Spanish Fort United Methodist Church.
Whaley is survived by his parents, a brother and a twin sister, according to an AL.com obituary. Whaley attended USM on a full academic scholarship and majored in finance and accounting.