Moscow, ID – An 18-year-old student at the University of Idaho froze to death under a bridge after he left a fraternity party and wandered five to seven miles in the snow.
Authorities say that Joseph Wiederrick attended a Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity party Saturday night and left on foot early Sunday morning. He called his roommate to inform him he was on his way to the dorm, but he never made it.
Police were called and a found him on Monday afternoon under the Paradise Creek Bridge, miles from where he had started walking. Temperatures that night had dropped to 24 degrees, and the poor kid froze to death after wandering around looking for his dorm.
Investigators were able to piece together some of what Wiederrick did after he left the party by following the trail he left, and it is apparent he was suffering from the effects of alcohol and hypothermia.
A little before 3 a.m., a homeowner found Wiederrick in her basement. “She asked him what he was doing there and he said he thought it was a fraternity house,” Moscow Police Chief David Duke said. The woman said Wiederrick did not seem intoxicated and that she asked him to leave when he said he was all right and was headed home.
An hour later, Wiederrick knocked on the door of the FarmHouse fraternity. The person who answered told police that Wiederrick looked in disarray and that he told the teen to leave because he felt threatened. Based on his tracks in the snow, Wiederrick went to another residence for help, but no one answered the door.
Not long after, Wiederrick wandered close to his intended destination and fell down an embankment into a shallow creek bed, suffering minor injuries. He managed to crawl under the Paradise Creek Bridge where he eventually froze to death in the sub freezing temperature. Looking at Google Street View, his dorm would have been visible.
Hypothermia is nasty business. Some of the effects Wiedrick was experiencing before his body began shutting down included confusion, lack of concentration, and amnesia. This was exasperated by the teen having alcohol in his system.
“Consumption of alcohol undoes many of the human body’s healthy reflexes, one of which is keeping the core body temperature warm in cold weather,” says Dr. William G. Haynes, Director of Clinical Pharmacology at the University of Iowa College of Medicine. “We may feel warm from the blood rushing to our skin, but our body is actually losing heat faster, bringing about an increased danger of hypothermia.”
Just to give you an idea of just how disorientated Wiederrick was, here’s a map of where we know he went that I spent way too much time making.
We’ve posted stories like this one before, and they always remind me of the creepy story of the Nebraska couple that froze to death during a snow storm while on meth and while talking to a 911 dispatcher.