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Autopsy: UNC freshman's blood alcohol level was three times legal limit

Posted October 29, 2012
Updated October 8, 2013

David Palmer Shannon, photo from Twitter
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— A University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill freshman found dead on the ground of a cement factory last year had a blood alcohol concentration nearly three times the legal limit, according to an autopsy report released Monday.

The body of David Palmer Shannon, 18, of Charlotte, was discovered Oct. 27 on the ground at Ready Mixed Concrete Plant on Guthrie Avenue in Carrboro after, investigators believe, he had been climbing on machinery and fell an estimated 30 feet onto a concrete surface.

A toxicology report indicates that Shannon's blood alcohol level was 220 mg/dL, or a BAC of 0.22. In North Carolina, a person is usually considered impaired at 0.08 or higher.

Shannon died of blunt force trauma of the head, neck and torso as a result of the fall, the autopsy report says.

Shannon was a 2012 graduate of Myers Park High School in Charlotte and was pledging Chi Phi fraternity.

According to an investigative report released with the autopsy report, he was last heard from via text message around 1:30 a.m. on Oct. 27.

Friends who followed a GPS signal from his cellphone found him around 10:30 p.m. after becoming concerned when he didn't show up for a football game earlier that day, the investigative report stated.

At the time, Carrboro police called Shannon's death an isolated incident, but last month in a report to the town manager, they said they haven't ruled out the possibility of hazing, a class 2 misdemeanor.

The fraternity's president told UNC-Chapel Hill's student newspaper, The Daily Tar Heel, last month that it doesn't haze pledges.

In the wake of his death, the university set up a scholarship, the David Palmer Shannon Memorial Fund, in his memory.


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  • UpChuck Oct 30, 2012

    ylime0419, how do you know this was a hazing incident? Do you know anything about fraternities other than what you see on Animal House? I am proud to say I was in a fraternity and am still active as an alum. Get some facts before you spew that sort of garbage. It could very well turn out that it was hazing, but it is irresponsible to state what you just did without the facts.

  • ylime0419 Oct 30, 2012

    I agree ven. Clearly this is a tragedy, but I think honoring these students who choose to consume alcohol underage at an unreasonable rate and then willingly participate in these often extremely dangerous hazing activities is promoting the wrong message. I wish people would start raising their children to be independant thinkers and find fulfillment within themselves and not from some faux philanthropic organization that is just one big excuse to treat people terribly and drink as much alcohol as possible. It's really sad that these organizations continue to exist based on their record of hazing and underage drinking which often leads to death or serious injury.

  • PracticalMagick Oct 30, 2012


    I just got a news brief from Ch. 17 in my email that said the kid fell 40 feet, not 17, as previously thought...

  • Holy Carp. Oct 30, 2012

    "Absolutely No. They should raise the age to 35 and maybe by then the young person will be able to handle it, or not bother drinking at all charmalainelovesdog2"

    Most logical comment I've seen on WRAL in ages- //sarcasm font//

  • Ven Oct 30, 2012

    My sincere condolences to the family, really a heartbreaking accident.
    Few thoughts: Charlotte paper is reporting that hazing is being looked into. To me, pretty obvious and was the first thought I had, especially after the NCSU-UNC game with the booze flowing all around campus.
    More importantly, why would Holden want to start a scholarship in this student’s name? Freshman, pledging a frat, got blasted and then a senseless death….exactly what is being honored here? What about Faith Hedgepeth? What about any other student? An Even Carson I get, tragically murdered plus had provided 4 years of service and leadership. Not sure what he did in the 2.5 months on campus – maybe it was a lot, I’m sure maybe his family provided financial support, but honoring a scholarship in his name seems almost blasphemy to others who have given so much more.

  • Honesty first Oct 30, 2012

    Did the fraternity have any role in this tragic death.

  • PracticalMagick Oct 30, 2012

    "They need to raise the drinking age to 21!"

    Maybe it's just me, but I could swear that was written with a sarcasm font...

  • Lightfoot3 Oct 30, 2012

    College kids will do silly things, whether alcohol is involved or not. I climbed the radio tower on the NCSU library. You've got to know your limitations. Though I agree, sometimes alcohol will cloud your knowledge of what limitations you have.

    Sad all the way around for this young man. Like others, I suspect he was not alone.

  • SisterChristian Oct 29, 2012

    This is very sad. Who else was involved? Did someone dare this young man to do this? Wasn't he in a fraternity?

  • kikinc Oct 29, 2012

    Changing the drinking age isn't going to solve anything. It's not like people turn 25 and everyone mysteriously knows how to control themselves, although they SHOULD know how to control themselves. More education would help. I drank in college, but I also wasn't silly enough to do some of the things you read about today.