Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2007

Underage drinking parties rampant this summer

Five taken to the hospital with alcohol poisoning

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Underage drinking parties across the county this month have sent several young people, unconscious with alcohol poisoning, to the emergency room. Police have cited both parents and teens for furnishing the alcohol the teens drank.

‘‘This summer has been unusually high for parties,” said Officer Bill Morrison, head of the county police unit that tests for alcohol. ‘‘Every Wednesday and Thursday we went to a party.”

Recent parties where police were called happened in Damascus on Aug. 4, in Darnestown on Aug. 9, in Germantown on Thursday and in Wheaton on Friday.

‘‘Usually around July Fourth, it drops off,” Morrison said.

Parties have been larger and noisier than in the past, said Meg Baker, who heads the county’s Drawing the Line program, which combats underage drinking.

Five teens have been found with alcohol poisoning this summer, he said.

Just after midnight on Thursday, friends rushed a 17 year old to Shady Grove Adventist Emergency Center in Germantown, left him naked in a wheelchair in the lobby, and then left.

A group estimated at 30 was partying in a house in the 2000 block of Anndyke Way in Germantown on Wednesday night, said Capt. Thomas C. Didone, commander of the Fifth Police District. The parents of the party’s host were out of town, he said.

At some point, the friends realized the 17-year-old had been unconscious for at least 30 minutes. In an effort to revive him, they undressed him and put him in the shower. When that did not revive the boy, they called 911, but decided to drive him to the emergency clinic themselves, Didone said.

When the Fire and Rescue Services ambulance arrived at the Anndyke Way house, 12 to 15 teens ran out, Didone said. Fire and Rescue Services called the police.

When police arrived, 13 guests were still at the party. Eight were older than 18 and were charged as adults; five were juveniles, Didone said. The juvenile host of the party also received a citation for furnishing alcohol to minors, he said.

Police called the host’s parents, who cooperated, Didone said. They gave police permission to search their house.

‘‘I really do appreciate them cooperating with the officers,” Didone said, adding that even good teens will take advantage of their parents being away.

Police found cases of beer and alcohol throughout the house and garage, Didone said.

Some partygoers were found to have blood alcohol levels of .22, almost triple the legal limit, Didone said.

‘‘It’s not just about them driving on the road,” he said, adding that alcohol poisoning can lead to death.

‘‘Youth drink to get drunk,” Baker said. ‘‘Often young drinkers don’t have the brain capacity to make good decision. They are more apt to be involved in risky behavior — one is driving.”

On Aug. 9, police found the remains of an underage drinking party at a house in Darnestown, Morrison said.

The owners of the house had given the keys to a 10-year-old neighbor and asked him to take care of their pets while they were away. The boy’s 16-year-old brother helped him. When they left the house, the 16-year-old left a door of the house on Daven Pine Court unlocked and invited friends to meet him that night for a party, Morrison said.

The next day, the 10-year-old found people asleep in the house and ran out screaming, he said.

Police issued 12 citations for that party: three to adults and nine to juveniles. Morrison expects to issue more citations later this week.

‘‘They can choke on their own vomit and die,” Baker said. ‘‘There are instances where a child is unconscious, and others take advantage of them sexually.”

On Aug. 4, police found an unconscious 16-year-old girl at a party in Damascus. The owners of the house were home during the party and were issued citations for furnishing alcohol to minors, with more citations pending, Morrison said.

The girl was taken to the hospital, where she was revived.

On Friday night, an ambulance took a teen to the hospital after a party in Wheaton, Morrison said. Details were not available.

A citation carries a maximum fine of $1,500 for each underage drinker. Under the law, parents are equally guilty whether they give guests alcohol or merely give them a place to drink.