Daniel Santulli's family recalls hazing horror that left freshman blind, unable to talk and in wheelchair

Daniel Santulli's family recalls hazing horror that left freshman blind, unable to talk and in wheelchair
Santulli was hazed by being force-fed vodka through a funnel on October 19, 2021, at a Phi Gamma Delta party (Change.org)

COLUMBIA, MISSOURI: Daniel Santulli, a Mizzou freshman who was in the ICU after going through brutal hazing at a fraternity event, is now in a wheelchair, blind and unable to talk. His father, Tom Santulli, has now spoken out about what happened that night about a year ago.

ADVERTISEMENT

Santulli was hazed by being force-fed vodka through a funnel on October 19, 2021, at a Phi Gamma Delta party. “Deep down inside, I knew it was bad form the minute we got the phone call,” Tom said, according to Fox2 Now. “I just knew.” On October 20, Tom and his wife Mary Pat drove to Columbia seven and a half hours through the night after receiving a phone call. 

ADVERTISEMENT

READ MORE

Scandal at Kansas University after cheerleaders allegedly blindfolded and stripped naked in hazing ritual

Stone Foltz hazing death: Two BGSU ex-frat members get 6 weeks in jail for forcing 20-yr-old to drink alcohol

ADVERTISEMENT

“At 1:30 a.m. we got a phone call from the emergency room at University Hospital in Columbia,” Tom said. “They verified with my wife that Danny Santulli was her son, and of course my wife said yes. Then, they said, ‘Just so you know, we have him here. He’s on a breathing machine, and we think it’s alcohol poisoning and you better get down here.'”

ADVERTISEMENT

The family is from Eden Prairie, Minnesota, about 20 miles southwest of Minneapolis. Tom recalled how Santulli cried to his older sister Meredith, who was a junior at Mizzou at that time, about the fraternity the weekend before the incident. “He’s not very vocal about his feelings and he broke down,” Tom said. “He’s very close to Meredith and Meredith met him at the fraternity house that Saturday before, and he just broke down. It was wearing him out. Meredith called us that next morning and said, ‘Mom and dad, I’m concerned.'”

ADVERTISEMENT

“We didn’t know anything about any event going on at Mizzou, ‘Pledge Dad Reveal Night,’ we had no clue,” Tom said. “If we knew, believe me, we would have been all over it.”

After the hazing, Santulli passed out and fell backward about two hours later. He was then carried to a couch, and he slipped onto the floor. His fraternity members later struggled to carry him towards a door, and drop him in the process. They finally drove him to a hospital. “I saw Danny in the medical ICU at the hospital at Mizzou. And it’s just a bunch of tubes everywhere. And that’s an image that will probably never leave my head,” his brother Nick Santulli said previously.

ADVERTISEMENT

No one called 911 even after Santulli's was in distress and his lips were blue. “I’m really angered about the 911 because if someone would have called 911, we wouldn’t be having this conversation,” Tom said. “Danny could have used another 20 minutes.”

Tom said when they arrived at the hospital, Santulli was in the ICU with computers, tubes, and wired. He saw doctors and nurses coming in and out. “At one point the doctor said there’s nothing more we can do, you’re going to have to start thinking about end of life,” Tom said. “I’ll never forget my wife falling on the floor in the ICU.”

ADVERTISEMENT

Santulli is now 19 and lives with his parents back in Minnesota. His mother quit her job to care for him. He and his parents are in New Orleans at present, where he is undergoing an oxygen treatment. “We’re exploring everything,” Tom said. “The doctor here in New Orleans reviewed Danny’s scans from the two locations that we were at previously and said he’s not brain dead. We do see little baby-step improvements with Danny. Lately he’s been showing emotion, like he will have a couple of tears everyday right around 6 or 7 p.m.” 

ADVERTISEMENT

Santulli can now hear, and his family keeps him updated about the New York Giants and Yankees. “We play the Giants’ games for him every Sunday and then with the Yankees being in the playoffs, we bring him in, and he listens, and then I’ll give him updates like Aaron Judge just hit a home run, and he lights up, it’s amazing,” Tom said. 

On Wednesday, October 19, his siblings Meredith and Nick held a candlelight vigil on Mizzou’s campus. “It’s one year to this day that my family got the dreaded phone call that Danny had gone into cardiac arrest and was revived in the parking lot of the hospital,” Meredith said. “Danny is the most caring, genuine, down to earth person. Danny was so full of life and always made everyone around him smile and laugh.”

ADVERTISEMENT

Meredith often sees some of the  Phi Gamma Delta fraternity brothers on campus. “I didn’t feel comfortable coming back, I knew they were roaming around this campus,” Meredith said. “I decided to come back in April and was running into them, and they were showing no remorse, and it was just so hard for me. Now knowing that they are finally getting punished gives me more confidence to be here.”

ADVERTISEMENT

It was earlier reported that the family’s attorney, David Bianchi, has settled a lawsuit against the fraternity, called Fiji, as well as 22 other defendants. He sought in a court motion to add to the lawsuit fraternity brothers Samuel Gandhi and Alec Wetzler. Wetzler allegedly organized the event. 

Eight brothers have been indicted and charged with Class D felony of hazing. Tom said none of the criminally charged members have apologized to the family. “One of the boys who is named in the civil case, I sat in with Meredith on that hearing at Mizzou and at the end, they asked the boy if there was anything he wanted to say to the Santullis,” Tom said. “That boy said, ‘Mr. Santulli and Meredith, I really care for Danny, I really do.’ That made a huge difference. It shows some type of remorse.”

ADVERTISEMENT

“Let me be clear, I don’t want to get rid of fraternities, I still think you can have fun,” Tom said. “My advice, find out who the officers of the fraternity are and what are their credentials.” Mizzou stopped recognizing the fraternity as a student organization after the incident. “It’s still horrific what happened but he’s still here with us today,” Danny’s brother Nick said. “The fact that we get to see him and talk to him every day just means the absolute world.”

ADVERTISEMENT

When asked if his brother would ever be able to talk, see, or walk again, Tom said, "That’s the million-dollar question, we really don’t know. We’re hoping and we’re progressing towards that, but there’s a lot of unknowns. On the flip side, he is still with us. Nine out of 10 kids in Danny’s condition die.”

ADVERTISEMENT

Share this article: Daniel Santulli's family recalls hazing horror that left freshman blind, unable to talk and in wheelchair