CLAY COUNTY, Fla. - About 4,700 people die a year as a result of underage drinking.
It may surprise some to hear, but the Northeast Florida Chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving says about 68 percent of deaths involving underage drinking are not traffic-related.
Cynthia Fairchild is speaking out about the dangers of alcohol. She knows firsthand, having lost her daughter to alcohol impairment, although her daughter never got behind the wheel.
"I have six children, but one of them is in a cemetery," Fairchild said.
She lost her 19-year-old daughter, Hollee Krueger, last June.
"I just think she was at an age where she didn't think it would happen to her, and she didn't get behind the wheel of a car, she was walking," Fairchild said.
Investigators said Krueger was walking drunk down Alligator Boulevard at 4:45 a.m. from a house party, where she'd joined of-age friends to play beer pong.
Investigators said she was hit by a teen driver who was linked to that house party, and investigators arrested the driver and five other people they say contributed to Krueger's death.
"She thought she was out having fun, but fun can turn tragic in an instant," Fairchild said.
With prom season and graduation around the corner, Fairchild has a message for teens.
"You don't know when this is going to happen," she said. "Nobody taps you on the shoulder and says, 'Hey, if you drink tonight you're going to wind up a tragic accident.'"
And advice for parents:
"In hindsight, I might honestly snoop more," Fairchild said. "You know, everybody says invade their privacy, but I think as parents we need to know what's going on in our children's lives."
Mothers Against Drunk Driving makes preventing underage drinking a part of its mission and promotes PowerTalk 21 Day, which is on Sunday, a day that all parents are encouraged to speak to their kids and other young people in their lives about alcohol.
"Don't be the cool parent that you think you're being. Don't be the awesome neighbor that will allow them to have that party," said Judy Cotton, of MADD Northeast Florida.
As for the six arrested, the cases are closed. The driver pleaded guilty to a third-degree felony of leaving the scene of the accident, as well as to a second-degree misdemeanor of driving without a valid driver's license.
The driver spent 10 days in jail, paid a fine of a little more than $700, and was put on five years of probation. Part of that probation is to attend MADD meetings.
The other five charged with holding an illegal house party or serving alcohol to underage people all pleaded guilty or no contest and placed on probation ranging from four months to a year.
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