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Alcohol factors into fatal crash

Toxicology results released by the Miami-Dade Medical Examiner’s Office indicated that UM linebacker Chris Campbell was legally drunk when he crashed into a tree at a quiet Coral Gables intersection during the early hours of Saturday, Feb. 16.

The 21-year-old had a blood-alcohol level of 0.13, well above Florida’s legal limit of 0.08.

Alcohol is one of four factors that police are investigating in order to determine the cause of the one-vehicle accident, said Coral Gables police spokesman Raul Pedroso, who cited fatigue, excess speed, and unbuckled seatbelts as other possible catalysts in the fatal crash.

No stains of drugs were found in Campbell’s body, said Pedroso.

Joel Rodriguez, 23, the only passenger in the car, was released from Jackson Memorial Hospital last Thursday and is recovering from a punctured lung and broken ribs.

A fastened seatbelt would probably have made little difference in preventing the accident due to the severity of the impact on the driver’s side of Campbell’s Toyota Camry, police said.

However, police said that buckling up would probably have significantly reduced Rodriguez’s injuries that were caused when his body jerked forward upon impact.

News of Campbell’s death struck a sour nerve on Susan Isenberg, president of the Miami chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Isenberg lost her 17-year-old son in 1986 when an intoxicated driver slammed into a tree in Coconut Grove.

“His name was also Chris,” she told The Hurricane. “As soon as I heard the time of the crash and the circumstances, I was pretty certain alcohol was involved.”

Isenberg said the toxicology results showed the amount Campbell drank prior to getting behind the wheel was “pretty high, even for someone his size.”

“He probably had between six or seven drinks during a very short period of time,” she said.

During a phone interview from his hospital room the day after the accident, Rodriguez told The Hurricane that although his recollection of that night was foggy, he believed Campbell had not been drinking, and described his late friend as a responsible driver.

Edwin Mims, Campbell’s uncle, told the Associated Press last week that “nobody in our family drinks. If it came out that way, it’s a big surprise to us.”

Alcohol-related accidents in Florida increased every year between 1996 and 2000, according to data compiled by MADD and based on information from law enforcement sources.

In 2000, 16,653 people were killed nationwide in crashes involving alcohol.

The same year, 1,191 fatal accidents involving alcohol happened in Florida, making up about 40 percent of the total cases.

Every year, college students spend about 5.5 billion on alcohol, mostly beer – more than they spend on books, soda, coffee, juice, and milk combined, according to a study published on the BACCHUS (an alcohol awareness organization) Web site that cited information from a study conducted by a major university.

Another national study published by BACCHUS on binge drinking-defined as five or more drinks in a row for men and four or more for women within two weeks-found that athletes have significantly higher rates of binge drinking than non-athletes.

Isenberg told The Hurricane she intends to schedule an appointment with President Donna Shalala to explore the possibility of starting a college chapter of MADD.

Juan Pablo Constain,22, a freshman at Miami-Dade Community College, told The Hurricane he has refrained from driving after heavily drinking since he crashed while driving under the influence two years ago.

“I still do it more than I should,” he confessed.

The message Isenberg wants to get across to Shalala: “Students shouldn’t let alcohol be their last taste of life.”

February 26, 2002

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The Miami Hurricane

Student newspaper at the University of Miami


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The Miami Hurricane is the student newspaper of the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla. The newspaper is edited and produced by undergraduate students at UM and is published weekly in print on Tuesdays during the regular academic year.