Parents say underage drinking growing problem

By: Melissa Tune Email
By: Melissa Tune Email

HARLEM, Ga.---A deadly wreck over the weekend in Columbia County killed two young people. It happened around 3 o'clock Sunday morning on Harlem-Grovetown Road.

Driver Brandon Newman ran off the road and hit a tree. The impact killed his brother, Cameron Newman, and passenger Mallory Jason.

The driver and a 16-year old girl were thrown out and went to the hospital.

Columbia County investigators are looking into whether alcohol was involved in that fatal crash.

It's routine to look at all factors that could have come into play, and investigators say it could be weeks before it's determined.

But some parents in Columbia and Richmond County say that regardless, underage drinking is a big problem.

Two of the people riding in the car, 16-year-old Sara Boykin and 19-year-old Mallory Jason, were both under the age of 21.

They weren't driving, and we don't know yet if they had been drinking, but parents in the area say it could have been easy for either of them to get access to beer and wine, and that's a problem.

"You always, always heard great things about this girl," said Paula Toole whose daughter Katie was friends with Mallory Jason. "Her parents are wonderful people."

Paula says that hearing of Mallory's death has been shocking and difficult.

"It's probably some of the hardest news (Katie's) ever had to hear," Paula said. "You often think when your child leaves home: are they going to come back?"

Columbia County investigators are looking into all possibilities of how and why the accident happened.

As of right now, they're not saying if alcohol was involved, but Paula says teens in the area are faced with the peer pressure of drinking each day.

"(Katie) tells me all the time about her friends who are caught up in drinking and partying. They just want to live life on the edge, and she's very concerned for them," Paula said. "You never know what's going to be happening at someone else's home, but ultimately it's the parents responsibility."

"This is an ongoing thing out in that community with all these kids out there drinking with these high school kids," said Terry Self.

Terry and his wife are trying to take responsibility for their daughter. Last Saturday night, she was at a party where her father says there were at least 11 underage teens drinking, including his 16-year-old daughter.

On Sunday morning he called the Richmond County and Columbia County authorities because he wanted them to know that there were adults providing booze. There's proof of that, he says, on many of the teenagers' MySpace accounts. He says that he called in the sheriff's departments because he wants to save a teen's life--and maybe his own.

"Our child could have been in that vehicle," he said. "Eleven kids could have died of alcohol poisoning, and they probably wouldn't have known about it right now."

"You don't always want to believe what you hear, especially when it's about your own child, and it took Sunday morning to open our eyes up that this is happening," he went on.

Terry says that he has a list of names of teenagers who were at that party on Saturday night, and he's planning on talking to their parents.

In the meantime he's going to talk to the Richmond County Sheriff's Department again, in hopes that they will do something to crack down on the underage drinking.

He says he's already provided names and won't stop until something is done.


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