Student Burned During Frat Drinking Ritual

A University of Georgia (search) student was severely burned during a fraternity drinking ritual, police said.

William Flynn Miller IV, 21, was engaged in a drinking rite inside the Lambda Chi Alpha (search) fraternity house early Tuesday morning when the incident happened.

The ritual involved 190-proof grain alcohol and a lighted oil lantern. Miller's clothes burst into flame, severely burning his upper torso, Athens-Clarke police said. The student, a senior forestry major from Savannah, suffered third-degree burns to his torso and hands. But his injuries did not appear life-threatening, police said.

When officers arrived on the scene, the floor of the fraternity house was littered with beer cans and bottles, folding chairs were scattered about and the odor of burned hair was in the air. Miller was on the floor and, although conscious, had skin hanging off his fingers, chest, stomach, side and back, police said.

"Mr. Miller said they were drinking and had been horsing around, and somehow — while next to an open flame from a lamp — the liquor ignited and caught him on fire," a police report said.

Fraternity members interviewed at the scene by police said the incident was not part of a hazing ritual.

"My understanding is they were having some type of activity that involved grain alcohol," police Capt. Mark Sizemore said.

A source knowledgeable about the incident, but who asked not to be identified, told the Athens Banner-Herald that Lambda Chi Alpha traditionally engages in a drinking ritual while playing the Steppenwolf (search) rock song "Magic Carpet Ride," which mentions Aladdin's lamp.

Jay Sammons, the fraternity's outgoing president, denied his fraternity engages in such a ritual.

Despite the severity of his burns, Miller was conscious and able to speak with a detective who went to an Augusta hospital to interview him, Sizemore said.

"We're following up to make sure nothing criminal in nature took place and to make sure these types of accidents don't happen again," he said.

UGA spokesman Tom Jackson said the university was also investigating.

"Clearly, our student affairs officials will get to the bottom of this and take any action which is appropriate," Jackson said.