Police track 'Nova student's deadly night of drinking

Kinara Patel: "How she consumed that much alcohol remains a mystery," the D.A. said.
Kinara Patel: "How she consumed that much alcohol remains a mystery," the D.A. said.
Posted: October 31, 2013

VILLANOVA Kinara Patel's drinking binge began and ended in a Villanova University dorm room.

Radnor police say that three days after returning to Villanova in August for her sophomore year, the 18-year-old from Hackensack, N.J., started drinking in Sullivan Hall, one of the largest dorms on campus, with 400 students.

She moved on to Maloney's Pub in Bryn Mawr, then returned to the dorm for more partying.

Patel was found unresponsive just before 10 a.m. the next day. The Delaware County medical examiner said she died of acute alcohol poisoning.

Two months after her Aug. 29 death, Radnor police are still investigating the events leading up to it. But they say they have pieced together many of the details of the alcohol-fueled evening Patel spent with friends before she died.

"It's a tragedy," Radnor Police Superintendent William Colarulo said last week. "And we're all responsible."

A Villanova spokesman called Patel's death "heartbreaking" but declined to discuss it or offer details on other incidents of student deaths or hospitalizations related to alcohol. Patel's family could not be reached for comment.

Although her companions told police that Patel never appeared dangerously drunk, authorities maintain that the alcohol splurge lasted for hours.

Patel, a business major, was a former prep-school student described by those who knew her as warm and caring and with a smile as wide as the sky. Her principal at Bergen County Academies said she organized the school's first Relay for Life cancer walk, now an annual event.

At Villanova, classes started Aug. 26, a Monday, and by that Wednesday, Patel and her friends were in full party mode, police said.

After drinking in the dorm, Patel used a fake driver's license to get into Maloney's, a Villanova hangout, according to police. She was there from midnight to 2 a.m.

The bar has a history of serving minors, according to authorities. Lower Merion police arrested people for underage drinking or providing false IDs in November 2012, February 2013, and September 2013, police Capt. William Boegley said.

And the state police Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement cited the bar in June 2012 and July 2013 for serving underage drinkers. On Aug. 26, three days before Patel died, an age-compliance check was conducted at the bar and a minor was turned away, spokesman Trooper Adam Reed said.

Calls to Maloney's for comments were not returned.

"All the Villanova students, they're at the bars and they've got very good IDs out there now," Boegley said.

Colarulo, the Radnor superintendent, said Patel had a "very authentic-looking" driver's license.

Police say they believe Patel was drinking at Maloney's, but don't know how much she drank there. Friends and a cabdriver who took the students back to Villanova told investigators she didn't appear drunk.

"She should have been staggering, and she wasn't," Delaware County District Attorney Jack Whelan said. In fact, he said, the friend who was with her "was in worse shape."

Authorities have not released her blood-alcohol content, but the autopsy report says the 5-foot-2 Patel ingested a lethal quantity of ethanol.

"How she consumed that much alcohol remains a mystery," Whelan said, adding that no criminal charges would be brought in connection with her death.

Police said they believed the drinking continued once the group got back to Villanova. They don't know for how long, but at 9:50 a.m., Patel was found dead.

Lower Merion Superintendent Michael J. McGrath said, "We constantly have complaints in Bryn Mawr regarding the bars, whether it be underage drinking or public drunkenness."

Villanova has said it provides several alcohol-education programs for students, but has not made any changes on campus following Patel's death. Its student code of conduct outlines sanctions for underage drinking, although like many universities, the school has a medical amnesty policy, spokesman Jonathan Gust said.

"The loss of even one student is too many. To lose someone so young is heartbreaking, and Kinara Patel's death was a tremendous loss for the entire Villanova community," he said.

Villanova is looking to build several dorms on campus to curb some of the rowdiness of students who live in surrounding communities. On Oct. 5, for instance, Lower Merion police cited 75 people for underage drinking at an apartment building at 801 Montgomery Ave. Almost all attended the university, Boegley said.


kboccella@phillynews.com

610-313-8232

@kathyboccella

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