The risks underage drinkers face are great and could include death, said organizers who support anti-drinking initiatives for minors.
"It could absolutely happen here," said Misty Schulze, a juvenile diversion coordinator with the 14th Judicial District. "It literally kills you to see something like that happen in Steamboat."
Minors who seek medical attention for symptoms of drinking alcohol will not face prosecution, according to a law passed in July. The law is intended to encourage teenagers and their friends to seek medical attention in the event of alcohol poisoning. "It really is a good law," said Misty Schulze, a grant writer with Grand Futures, a group that focuses on substance abuse prevention. Eight teenagers received medical attention at The Memorial Hospital for alcohol poisoning in 2004. In addition, Moffat County High School students consume alcohol at a rate that is nearly 40 percent higher than the national average, according to a study by Grand Futures. Schulze said she has noticed an increase in fake identification cards. Area businesses that serve alcohol are reluctant to purchase the expensive machines to detect phony driver's licenses, she said. Representatives from agencies that sell liquor can attend classes through Grand Futures aimed at detecting phony IDs and determining whether people have had too much to drink. For information on class dates and times, call Grand Futures at 824-5752.
Adele Dombrowski, 17, a senior at Steamboat Springs High School was found dead in her bed Saturday morning. It is not known what role alcohol played in her death. Another minor, Kevin Neuwirth, 20, has been charged with providing alcohol to Dombrowski.
Neuwirth bought a 1.75-liter bottle of rum on Friday afternoon at a Steamboat Springs liquor store. Dombrowski reportedly drank the alcohol with friends on the way to last Friday's football game between Steamboat and Moffat County in Craig.
The death of Dombrowski, a popular athlete in Steamboat, shocked many throughout the area and raised concerns about underage drinking.
Last year, eight teenagers were admitted to The Memorial Hospital for alcohol poisoning, Schulze said.
At one party, friends covered an intoxicated girl with a blanket after she started foaming at the mouth. She was eventually taken in for medical attention, Schulze said.
Eight reported cases of alcohol poisoning among youths in 2004 is a comparatively large number for a town the size of Craig, but Schulze wondered how many more minors with alcohol poisoning might not have received medical attention.
Statistics show that 20 percent of Moffat County eighth-grade students used alcohol in a 30-day period.
In an effort to crack down on underage drinking, law enforcement performs compliance checks about twice a year. A compliance check on Sept. 2 netted Terrace Liquors of Dinosaur. Schulze said an underage drinker purchased alcohol there using a driver's license that clearly stated in red writing that the juvenile was under 21.
The operation was planned to include Craig, but was canceled when word quickly passed among the area's liquor establishments of the imminent compliance check.
Nine area establishments that sell liquor were caught selling to minors in the first half of 2004. The second sting of that year netted two citations.
Tara Jenrich, who works as a bartender at Mathers' Bar, said she regularly checks identification if she questions someone's age. That's after patrons are asked to present ID when they enter.
"If you have any kind of reservations you should always check," she said.