Man, 20, found dead after party at Berkeley frat house

Police police cars outside the fraternity where a 19-year old was found dead Nov. 9. Photo: Emilie Raguso
Police cars outside the Zeta Psi fraternity at 2728 Bancroft Way where a man was found dead Sunday, Nov. 9. Photo: Emilie Raguso

Update, Dec. 31, 5:18 p.m. The Alameda County coroner’s office on Tuesday, Dec. 30, determined the cause of death for Vaibhev Loomba as acute ethyl alcohol intoxication. A representative from the coroner’s office said he could not be more specific regarding the results of the toxicology screening until that report is finalized, and had no estimate for when that information would become available.

Original story, Nov. 9, 1:28 p.m. A 20-year-old man was found dead Sunday afternoon at the Zeta Psi fraternity in Berkeley, at 2728 Bancroft Way, the day after the frat threw a large party that drew hundreds of attendees.

Police responded to a call about an unresponsive male just before 12:10 p.m., and found a man face down in a room in the fraternity, according to Lt. Ed Spiller of the Berkeley Police Department.

The Berkeley Fire Department also responded, and confirmed that the man had died. No time of death has been provided, but the man was described as “cold to the touch” over the police scanner.


Officers took statements Sunday at Zeta Psi to learn how a 20-year-old man may have died over the weekend. Photo: Emilie Raguso
Officers took statements Sunday at Zeta Psi to learn how a 20-year-old man may have died over the weekend. Photo: Emilie Raguso

The man is not believed to have been a Cal student or a member of Zeta Psi, based on the initial investigation, said Spiller. Neither his name nor cause of death were available Sunday afternoon.

One witness on the scene told police there was vomit around the man’s mouth when his body was discovered.

As of Sunday night, the Berkeley Police Department had not released the young man’s name, but friends identified him on Facebook as Vaibhev Loomba.

Vaibhev Loomba. Photo: Vaibhev Loomba/Facebook
Vaibhev Loomba. Photo: Vaibhev Loomba/Facebook

The Alameda County coroner’s office said it was referring all calls about the fatality to the Berkeley Police Department, and watch commander Lt. Dave Frankel said Sunday night that the department spokeswoman would not be available for comment on the matter until Monday.

Friends have posted remembrances about Loomba on their Facebook pages, however.


“One of the most genuine guys I know, gone far too soon,” wrote Michael Riel. “Save me a spot up there.”

Wrote Aidan Maguire of Loomba: “One of the greatest guys I may ever know. Always making me laugh and radiating positivity wherever he went. May he rest in peace and be forever remembered.”

According to his Facebook page, Loomba lived in Lafayette at the time of his death, but was from Antioch. He studied at UC Davis.

As a student at Acalanes High School in Lafayette, Loomba participated in Model U.N. and ran track, according to online reports.

(Update, Nov. 10, 2:05 p.m. The Alameda County coroner’s office has confirmed the identity of the man who died in Berkeley over the weekend as Vaibhev Loomba. Time of death was not available. An autopsy was performed Monday morning but the official cause of death will not be released until the completion of a toxicology screening, which can take weeks or months to come back.)


Police cars gathered to investigate body found in fraternity. Photo: Emilie Raguso
About seven police units were on scene as authorities investigated a body found in fraternity. Photo: Emilie Raguso

The fraternity where the young man died hosted a party Saturday night that drew around 300 people, according to one witness.

Berkeley issued a warning notice to Zeta Psi. Photo: Emilie Raguso
The city issued a warning to Zeta Psi. (Click to view larger.) Photo: Emilie Raguso

A passer-by said shortly after 2:30 p.m. Sunday that he was at the party Saturday night. When he was there, he said it was “a pretty relaxed atmosphere.”

Zeta Psi had, however, been on notice from authorities not to throw any more noisy parties. In October, it hosted a large party that got so out of hand the Berkeley police declared it a public nuisance under its “second response” ordinance.

A city notice was posted just inside the fraternity door Sunday warning its members of possible legal action, including “civil penalties,” in the event of additional disturbances reported on site.

Just before 2 p.m. Sunday, a young man walked outside and was openly weeping in the fraternity’s front yard as police took statements inside and undertook their investigation.

Several people associated with the fraternity declined to speak with the media.

Homicide detectives also reported to the scene Sunday afternoon. Their presence is common practice for any unusual death, and does not indicate foul play, authorities said.

The scene inside the Zeta Psi fraternity house on Sunday afternoon. Photo: Emilie Raguso
The scene inside the Zeta Psi fraternity house Sunday afternoon. Photo: Emilie Raguso
Several discarded cups remained on the lawn outside Zeta Psi on Sunday. Photo: Emilie Raguso
Several discarded cups remained on the lawn outside Zeta Psi on Sunday. Photo: Emilie Raguso

According to the Daily Cal, the UC Berkeley student newspaper, Zeta Psi lost its Cal sponsorship in December 2010 “for repeated risk management, fire and life safety and social code violations and noncompliance with prior sanctions.” (Read more of the background on the Daily Cal.)

The San Francisco Chronicle profiled the fraternity in 2010, and said its first chapter house was built in 1876 at 2251 College Ave. Of the first 12 men to graduate from the University of California in 1873, according to the Chron, seven were Zeta Psi brothers.

Update, Nov. 11, 7:30 p.m. Zeta Psi posted a statement on its website Nov. 10 about the fatality over the weekend: “On Sunday November 9th, Zeta Psi was informed that a 20 year old male was found unconscious inside the Zeta Psi chapter house at University of California – Berkeley. He was not a member of Zeta Psi Fraternity. Emergency medical personnel who responded to the scene were unable to revive the individual. The circumstances surrounding the incident are being investigated by the appropriate authorities. Until the investigation is complete, Zeta Psi will not comment on the details of this incident. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family of this young man.”

Update, Nov. 11, 8 p.m. Vishalli Loomba, sister of Vaibhev and a UC Berkeley student leader, posted the following public statement on Facebook on Tuesday: “It is impossible to describe how devastated I am. I lost my little brother and my best friend. My heart is so broken. Thank you to everyone who has reached out and been there for my family and for my Vaibhev. I know one thing he would have wanted is for us all to come together and celebrate his life.”

She wrote that there will be a memorial for her brother Saturday, Nov. 15, at 10 a.m. in Walnut Creek at Mt. Diablo Unitarian Church, 55 Eckley Lane. (She has not responded to a request for comment from Berkeleyside.)

According to Vaibhev Loomba’s LinkedIn profile, he was studying mechanical engineering at UC Davis, with an expected graduation date in 2016. Last year, he and his sister cofounded a non-profit philanthropic organization, SatyaShakti, aimed to help young women in India get more access to education in the medical and public health fields through scholarships.

Update, Nov. 12, 10:45 a.m. The University of California, Berkeley has issued the following statement about Sunday’s fatality: “Our hearts go out to the family of this young man. As this is an active investigation, it’s premature to speculate about what may have happened in this tragic situation. We are offering impacted students counseling services and other support. The university takes the safety of the broader community very seriously. Once we find out more, we will collaborate with our community partners to see how best we can support a safer environment for everyone. We await additional information through the Berkeley Police Department.”

A Facebook memorial page has been created for Loomba, and can be viewed here.

Authorities are asking anyone with information regarding this incident to contact the Berkeley Police Department’s Homicide Detail at 510-981-5741. This story was updated as additional information became available. 

Related:
UC Berkeley student exonerated of rape charge (10.17.14)
5 report frat house drugging, sex assaults in Berkeley (10.17.14)
Berkeley police: Drug was used in Cal fraternity rape case (10.07.14)
Berkeley police make frat house arrest in rape case (10.03.14)
Photos: Departing Cal students leave debris piles behind (06.05.14)
Man arrested after attempted homicide with baseball bat following frat house fight (04.28.14)
University, residents collaborate on campaign for quiet (09.10.12)
Student who fell from frat house in serious condition (02.27.12)
The Never Land of Zeta Psi: excavating a frat house (09.22.10)

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