Recently in Oswego crash Category


Why do kids drink?

A dumb question, yes? Yet, if parents -- and communities -- knew the real answer, they might be able to do something constructive to solve this nation's largest drug problem. I imagine many parents who attended the forums in Aurora and Oswego on Wednesday came to learn why kids drink; others perhaps came to find out if there is a way to stop them.

A study published in late 2007 sought to find the answers to these questions. The results, published in the journal Prevention Research, found that high school seniors drink to experiment, to relax -- and to get away from their problems -- by and large similar reasons why adults drink.


At the conclusion of last week's live virtual town hall meeting on underage drinking, we promised that the experts who participated in the forum would reply to the unanswered questions.

Angela Halvorson of TopLine Professional Strategies, which is a consultant to the Illinois Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Association, has authored a response. Please find her answers after the jump.

Thanks again to everyone who participated in the chat. We believe it was a successful jumpstart to what should be an ongoing conversation about alcohol use among teens.


Mourners gather around the site of the crash that killed five Oswego teenagers on Route 31 in Oswego last year.


What has changed in the year since the Oswego crash? Has the community found any new effective solutions to the problem of teen drinking? Where do we go from here?

Join us at 8 p.m. tonight if you have answers to any of those questions or have questions of your own. In an effort to start a new conversation about teen drinking on the one-year anniversary of the Oswego crash, we'll be hosting a virtual town-hall meeting to get the discussion started.

A number of experts from across the state will participate, but this online session will really be about the community. We want to hear from you about the events of a year ago, what has (or hasn't) changed and where the solutions might lie.


Peter Hoffman/Beacon News
(From left) Oswego students Megan Findlay, 16; Tasha Tretternero, 17; Alex Peterson, 17; and Alyssa Plac, 17, gather at the site where five of their classmates were killed Feb. 11, 2007. Monday marks the one-year anniversary of the accident that also injured four teens.


In the year since the Oswego crash claimed five young lives, there's been a lot of talk about how to combat the problem of teen drinking. But has anything really changed in the wake of the tragedy?

Kids are still dying in drunken-driving crashes. Parents are still being arrested for hosting "supervised" drinking parties. And our communities continue to be scarred by the consequences.

So has the window of opportunity for change after the Oswego crash already closed?


UPDATE: The Kendall County state's attorney announced Tuesday he will appeal an earlier ruling that Sandra Vasquez's taped confession is inadmissible. That means the trial will be postponed -- possibly for more than a year -- while the appellate court sorts this out. That makes much of the debate over pretrial publicity moot for now.

Can an alleged drunken driver whose actions contributed to the deaths of five teenagers get a fair trial in the county where the much-publicized accident occurred?

Sandra Vasquez's defense attorney doesn't think so. That's why she wants the reckless-homicide and aggravated-DUI trial related to the February Oswego crash moved out of Kendall County.

The tragedy has certainly received its fair share of coverage. But at what point does the media attention given to a high-profile case taint the jury pool?


A Kendall County judge threw out a vital piece of evidence last week against Sandra Vasquez, ruling that the conduct of Oswego police officers while obtaining a videotaped confession in the hospital was "offensive." Two other statements made by the alleged drunken driver in the Oswego crash will be allowed, but the ruling was certainly a defeat for prosecutors.

Essentially, the judge didn't like the way police read Vasquez her Miranda rights and conducted their questioning. They rattled off her rights quickly, told Vasquez she was simply taking part in a question-and-answer session -- rather than an interrogation -- and didn't get her consent to be videotaped. They also didn't back off when Vasquez asked them to stop.

Interestingly, the two oral statements Vasquez made before she was read her rights are admissible -- in which she admits to drinking and being the driver in the crash that killed five teenagers -- while those made after she was read her rights were thrown out. The difference is that Vasquez was not yet considered a suspect when she first started talking to police, so her statements are considered voluntary.


Waubonsie Valley High School students, take pause on Wednesday. Oswego High School students -- with your friends' memories still fresh in your mind -- take pause, too. And Randy Visor, even as you once again fight for your freedom, please take pause and think about the lives lost a decade ago.

Wednesday marks the 10-year anniversary of the fatal DUI crash that killed WVHS students Jenni Linn Anderson, 16; Allison Matzdorf, 16; and Jennifer Roberts, 16. Also killed was 27-year-old Ana Pryor.


A number of Oswego High School students were suspended for a day this week after they refused to remove or turn inside out T-shirts that referenced an alcohol-fueled crash that killed five of their peers in February.

The T-shirts read: "Seniors .08" on the front and "Don't Blow It" on the back. Roughly 50 students came to class on Wednesday wearing the shirts. Some students said the shirts were a warning not to drink and drive. Administrators said they were told by other teens the T-shirts promoted drinking.

Never mind the confusion over the message, and ponder this: Don't the students have a right to free speech?


The driver in the Oswego crash initially told police she wasn't behind the wheel when her car crashed into a telephone pole, ultimately killing five teenage passengers. She later changed her story, claiming she let the teens use her car and took over because she didn't like the way one of the kids was driving.

There's still a lot here we don't know, but this adds a new twist to the events of that tragic night. Vasquez claims the teens approached her for a ride home after a party. She told police she let them use her car, despite not knowing any of them, but that "James" was originally driving and she was a passenger. James McGee, who died more than a week after the accident, was only 14 years old.

It's possible that McGee was driving because he was sober. We don't know his blood-alcohol level at the time of the accident because he died in Cook County, which doesn't do inquests. Vasquez said she "didn't want to drive" but switched with McGee because she "didn't like the way James was driving." Maybe it's because he didn't know how.


In the six months since the Oswego car accident that killed five teenagers, legislators have passed bills about teen drinking, police have stepped up enforcement efforts and more parents have started taking the problem seriously.

But what, if anything, have kids in the area learned from this tragedy? That's really the most important and impacting question. Has the Oswego crash really changed anything when it comes to underage drinking?

And if this tragedy hasn't been a wake-up call, will anything change the behavior of teenagers who want to have a few beers (or more) on a Friday night?

About this Archive

This page is a archive of recent entries in the Oswego crash category.

Missing persons is the previous category.

Oswego family tragedy is the next category.

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