‘Huffing' Killed IIT Student

19-year-old ROTC student found in frat house storage room

The death of an Illinois Institute of Technology student found in a fraternity house storage room was ruled accidental by the Cook County medical examiner's office Sunday.

Authorities found Benjamin Collen, 19, in the Alpha Sigma Phi fraternity house on campus, officials said. Collen was reported missing on Nov. 14.

The autopsy found that Collen, a sophomore biomedical engineering major from Lincolnwood, died from asphyxia due to inhalation of carbon dioxide from a cannister according the medical examiner's office.

Small cylinders containing nitrous oxide from whipped cream containers, known casually as "whippets," were found near Collen's body, Cook County deputy chief medical examiner Mitra Kalelkar said.  The date of death has not yet been determined.

Nitrous oxide, often called "laughing gas," is used as an anesthetic by dentists and surgeons and as a foaming agent for whipped cream canisters. The gas also is commonly abused as an inhalant.

"Our heartfelt condolences go to Ben Collen's family on their terrible loss,"  IIT President John Anderson told the Chicago Tribune. "The whole IIT community mourns Ben's death along with his family."

A fraternity brother found Collen's body and called 911, Owen McCulloch, president of the national Alpha Sigma Phi Fraternity told the Tribune. Police say they arrived at the house just before Officers then arrived shortly before 6 p.m. Saturday.

 Collen had been a member of the fraternity since his freshman year and lived there until recently when he moved to a nearby student housing complex. 

Collen and many of his fraternity brothers were members of IIT's Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC).  IIT officials said counselors are available to meet with students on campus.

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