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ISU student falls in bonfire at barn dance; police investigate

BLOOMINGTON (MCT) — Police are investigating a weekend incident at a barn dance near Lexington that left an Illinois State University student hospitalized after she fell into a bonfire.

Emergency crews were called at 10:45 p.m. Saturday to Pleasant View Farm near Lexington for a report of a student injured at a party organized by Gamma Phi Beta sorority.

Lauren Bucaro, 21, was transferred to the burn unit at Loyola University Hospital in Maywood where her condition was not available Monday. According to ISU spokesman Jay Groves, Bucaro was not a member of the sorority.

Sam Payne, owner of the farm that rents its property to college groups for barn dances, said he did not see the incident occur but was told that she slipped into the fire.

McLean County Sheriff Mike Emery said Monday that he has concerns about the barn dance barn events that include alcohol on the rural property.

“The potential is always there when you don’t have proper supervision to ensure that underage drinking and over-intoxication aren’t taking place. In the most recent case, we are investigating to see if any criminal offenses were involved that may be reviewed by the state’s attorney’s office,” said Emery.

Police reports indicate that the woman had a blood alcohol level of 0.145, an amount almost double the 0.08 legal limit for driving in Illinois.

Payne, who was an unsuccessful candidate for the McLean County Board in the March primary, said sororities and fraternities sign contracts that require them to hire vendors to handle alcohol sales. He said he has liability insurance to cover the events.

Payne said he told insurance agent who provides that liability coverage: “I’ve got drunk college kids dancing around a fire and live animals.”

The flier for Pleasant View Farm boasts guaranteed privacy, security, domestic farm animals “as an attraction,” bonfires and hayrack rides.

Groups also must provide transportation to the barn dances. Payne said four buses brought the 200 weekend guests.

Groves said the university was not notified of the weekend incident until late Monday and that the ISU incident response team would be contacting the student’s family.

The weekend barn dance was the second time a police report has been compiled about a Pleasant View event.

In 2009, Cindy Meiners, the chapter adviser for Alpha Gamma Delta sorority, told police a student reported being sexually assaulted at a party. The student declined to cooperate with the police investigation and charges were not filed.

Payne denied a sexual assault occurred.

Meiners said her concerns with a lack of supervision at the rural site convinced her that the farm was not a suitable party location. An upcoming dance will be held at the Interstate Center in Bloomington, she said.

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