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University of Vermont student who died cold was intoxicated, police say

BURLINGTON, Vt. – A college student found dead in the snow last weekend appeared to die from exposure to sub-zero temperatures, which was exacerbated by acute intoxication, according to Burlington police.

These preliminary results came after a Monday autopsy of Connor Gage, 19, of Little Falls, New York. The Chief Medical Examiner’s Office is still awaiting toxicology results, which could take several weeks to complete, a news release stated.

Gage was found late Saturday morning lying in the snow in a parking lot, police have said. Police believe he attended two off-campus events at fraternity houses Friday evening into early Saturday morning. 

Burlington Police Deputy Chief Jon Murad said Gage left the University of Vermont campus earlier Friday night to go to a fraternity house where he met friends. There was not a party at the first frat. Murad said he is unsure whether the first fraternity is considered an official fraternity by the university.

More: 19-year-old University of Vermont student found dead outdoors after frigid night

More: University of Vermont identifies Connor Gage as student found dead of exposure

Gage then left that gathering with several people to go to the second location, an unregistered fraternity at which there was a party. 

Murad said police plan to identify the two fraternities after conducting a few more interviews. 

Gage left the fraternity party around 12:45 a.m., and surveillance footage showed him about 20 minutes later entering the parking lot in which he was later found dead, police said. 

“That surveillance footage shows Connor to be alone, inadequately dressed, and moving in ways consistent with intoxication and/or hypothermia,” the news release stated. 

Police are unsure as to why Gage was alone or where he was trying to go when he ended up in the parking lot, Murad said. They suspect he may have been walking back to the first fraternity house to collect some belongings he had left there. 

“To be frank, there are going to be elements of those questions that are never going to be answered,” Murad said. 

Murad said he does not anticipate any criminal charges to be filed in the case. 

“I wouldn’t be surprised if the university asks itself some questions about culture and the idea of having people take better care of each other,” Murad said. 

Police: Friends should look for hypothermia warning signs

Hypothermia occurs when a person’s body loses heat faster than the body can produce it. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, warning signs include uncontrollable shivering, shallow breathing, disorientation, slurred speech, drowsiness, clumsiness, and exhaustion.  

People experiencing hypothermia often also shed clothing in a phenomenon known as “paradoxical undressing,” police said.

“Because hypothermia can be characterized by confused thinking, it’s incumbent on friends to monitor each other and exercise care for one another when the warning signs listed above are observed,” police said.

Follow Elizabeth Murray on Twitter: @LizMurrayBFP.

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