Nov 282011
Authors: Erin Udell

After learning about the death of CSU student Sean McGowan Monday morning, undeclared freshman Charles Fierstine could only sum up the ordeal with one word: surreal.

“You don’t expect something like that to happen on campus, let alone in the residence halls,” Fierstine said.

McGowan, who was found unresponsive in his room in Summit Hall, was pronounced dead after being transported to Poudre Valley Hospital.

While a toxicology report is still pending, McGowan’s death appears to be drug-related, said Greg Fairman, deputy coroner investigator for the Larimer County Coroner’s Office.

“I found paraphernalia and a rock of black-tar heroin in his pocket,” Fairman said, adding that there were multiple injection sites on McGowan’s forearms, indicating he was an intravenous drug user. “We have all the indicators that he was on drugs.”

CSU spokeswoman Dell Rae Moellenberg declined to comment about the cause of death since the toxicology report will not be released for several weeks.

In cases of a student death, residence halls work quickly to notify the proper authorities and, once given the proper clearance, alert students in the dorm community.

“We know that rumors start and spread quickly with social media and close-knit communities in the halls, so we share confirmed news as soon as we are able to, while working to balance that with the family’s right to know first,” said Tonie Miyamoto, the director of communications and sustainability for Housing and Dining Services, in an email to the Collegian.

According to Miyamoto, residence hall staff members are trained in handling emergency situations.

“After immediate safety and health needs have been addressed, we typically work with the hall staff to schedule a floor or community meeting to offer support for students who have been impacted by the tragedy,” Miyamoto said.

“We also work the CSU Health Network to bring counselors into the hall(s) to provide grief counseling and professional counseling services for students who have been impacted.”

Fierstine, who didn’t know McGowan personally, said he never expected to hear of a fellow student dying.

“I was in my R[esident] A[ssistant]’s room the other day looking at the sign of all the things that could happen (in the dorms),” Fierstine said. “I saw death and was like, ‘yeah, like that’s going to happen.’”

“It’s just surreal,” he added.

To learn about the resources available, students are encouraged to talk to their RA, Assistant Resident Director or Resident Director.

The CSU Health Network Counseling line is also available 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 970-491-7111.

News Editor Erin Udell can be reached at

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