Cal Poly student went to party before his death, friend says

20-year-old who died Sunday near a Cal Poly residence hall was health-conscious and selfless toward his friends

jhickey@thetribunenews.comFebruary 11, 2013 

UPDATE: Candlelight vigil planned for Cal Poly student Brandon Huang »

Cal Poly student Brandon Huang attended a large house party in San Luis Obispo the evening of his death, and he was driven back to his residence hall by a close friend who was acting as designated driver that night, according to another friend who last saw Huang at the party.

Huang, who turned 20 last week, died early Sunday morning just outside the Poly Canyon Village residence hall.

At 11:56 p.m. Saturday, Cal Poly police were dispatched to a location just outside the residence hall, where a caller had reported a male having trouble breathing. Police were unable to resuscitate Huang, who was taken to Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.

Sophomore Ben Norris last saw Huang at the party, sitting outside and “getting some air.” Huang told Norris that he felt like going home, but their group of friends was not yet ready to leave.

“I felt I should have seen that he needed out,” said Norris, who was also serving as a designated driver that night.

Norris said that alcohol “probably played a part” in Huang’s death, but those in the car with Huang later told Norris that the situation seemed more complicated.

“Maybe there were other health problems because he was having lots of trouble breathing,” Norris said.

Police do not suspect foul play in the death, which is under investigation. An autopsy is scheduled for Thursday.

Cal Poly media relations representative Ellen Cohune declined to comment Monday. On Sunday, Keith Humphrey, Cal Poly vice president for student affairs, said the university was “not ruling anything in or out” in terms of cause of death.

Huang’s friends, many of whom wrote messages on his Facebook wall, described him as “genuine” and “selfless.” He was also known for being responsible and health conscious.

That added to the shock of his death, several friends told The Tribune.

“Brandon was the ‘dad’ of our group of friends,” Huang’s roommates, twins Cody and Dylan Kratochvil, wrote in an email. “He would often bring a small backpack filled with water, Band-Aids, food, an umbrella and some other miscellaneous stuff whenever we would go out.

“He took care of us. He truly was a selfless individual who always put others before himself.”

They added that Huang, a biology major who expressed himself through poetry and photography, loved learning and would attend lectures just because he found them interesting. He was also a disciplined person who would wake up at 6:30 a.m. five days a week for morning runs.

Huang had just registered to compete in the San Luis Obispo Half Marathon in April.

Norris, who knew Huang from his freshman year, said Huang was always willing to help others, especially with studying.

“When people pass away, it’s easy to say, ‘He’s such a nice guy,’ but he legitimately was,” said Cal Poly sophomore Brian Henson, who had attended school with Huang since first grade in their hometown of Orinda. “People respected him because they knew he would do whatever he could to help people succeed.”

Updates about a pending memorial service will be posted on the dean of students’ website at

The Tribune is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service