State Police and Allegany village police are investigating the death of a 19-year-old St. Bonaventure University student who collapsed at an off-campus party early Sunday morning.
University officials identified the student as Matthew Dungan, a sophomore business major and member of the university rugby team who lived on Zimmerman Boulevard in the Town of Tonawanda.
His father, Jeffrey Dungan, told The Buffalo News that his family is devastated by the tragedy and hopes police can find answers about what happened.
"We got the proverbial middle-of-the-night phone call from the police that no parent ever wants to get," the elder Dungan said. "We drove down to the [Olean General] hospital, and Matt had already passed away."
Dungan said authorities told him his son was at a party when he became ill and unresponsive at around 1:20 a.m. He said he was told that his son wasn't feeling well, and that he tried to get up, and fell down. His friends then called for emergency help.
"He was such a good kid, an honors student in high school, who was a good athlete and loved all kinds of sports," Dungan said of his son.
"This is such a tragedy," said Clarence Picard, coach of the St. Bonaventure rugby team. "Matt's personality was bigger than his skill. He was one of the most personable guys on our team, just a great kid. He was one of the most well-liked guys on the team."
As of late Sunday, police and university officials had not released any information about the party Dungan had attended. Police and university officials have declined to speculate whether drinking was involved in the death. They said an autopsy will be conducted.
"This tragic death has stunned our campus," said Sister Margaret Carney, the university president. "Our hearts and prayers go out to the family of Matthew as we also focus on assisting Matthew's family and our students who are so terribly shaken by this."
The apartment house where Dungan collapsed is on West Main Street in Allegany, less than two miles from the St. Bonaventure campus. Authorities said the apartment house was the same address where police made several arrests last Oct. 17, after someone hurled an explosive "molotov cocktail" into an apartment there.
Cattaraugus County sheriff's deputies said the bomb did not fully explode, but it did ignite a small fire in the apartment where several St. Bonaventure students had been watching television. The incident involving the explosive had followed an earlier violent confrontation between some university students and non-students who live in the area, police said.
Sources said they were unaware of any connection between the molotov cocktail incident and the party where the student collapsed Sunday.
A St. Bonaventure student who attended the party told The News that about 15 to 20 students attended, and that alcohol was consumed there. The student said he saw several other students crowded around Dungan, who was seated on a couch, trying to revive him shortly before police arrived.
Rick Lamberson, mayor of the village of Allegany, said he is not aware of any problems at the apartment house since the incidents last October.
While saying that he and Allegany police are concerned about alcohol consumption by underage students at parties in the village, he asked the public not to jump to any conclusions about Dungan's death.
"When I heard about this young man's death, my wife and I were just about crying. We have a 19-year-old son of our own. Kids make mistakes. This could have been me years ago," Lamberson said. "I was told [by police] that this happened at a party, but we don't know what caused the death Let's have some respect for the family."
At the same time, Lamberson said, parties at houses occupied by St. Bonaventure students have caused some problems over the years. He said he is concerned about the issue, and he said he knows university officials are also concerned.
"There have been car wrecks after some of these parties. We've had kids fall off porches and mangle their legs. Years ago, a kid fell off an overpass onto the road after one of these parties," Lamberson said. "The partying is too much glorified these days."
He said the Allegany police and university officials do their best to control the situation. Lamberson said some landlords have been cited for housing violations after parties that got out of hand.
Picard said he spent much of Sunday consoling rugby team members who were upset by Dungan's death.
"They're getting through this by trying to spend time together," Picard said of his players. "There's a sudden feeling of mortality when something like this happens."
Picard said he heard there had been "a lot of festivities" at the Allegany house, but he did not learn details. He said he is sure some of the other St. Bonaventure rugby players were at the party with Dungan, but he said he does not believe the party was sponsored by the team.
Memorial prayers for Dungan were offered at the university Sunday evening, and students will be assisted by counselors and campus ministers, university spokesman Thomas Missel said.
A memorial service will be held in the university chapel at 7 tonight, Missel added.
Dungan's father made a point of saying that university officials, police, hospital officials and students all treated his family with caring and respect after the incident.
News staff reporter Charlie Specht contributed to this story.