By Starrla Cray
HOWARD LAKE, WAVERLY, WINSTED, MN “It just took one night,” Mike Mahoney said.
His 15-year-old sister, Jenny, had been invited to a party between Howard Lake and Waverly, where she met a 21-year-old with a car.
“He convinced her to drive his car,” Mahoney said. Jenny, who had a learner’s permit at the time, took the wheel, with the 21-year-old in the passenger seat.
A 16-year-old named Jeremy was in the back, along with one of Jenny’s friends.
The backseat also contained a 12-pack of beer. Jenny, a student at Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted High School, hadn’t been drinking that night, but the other three passengers had.
The group stopped at the house Jeremy was staying at for the summer.
“Jeremy talked her into going for a ride on his motorcycle,” Mahoney said. They made it a few blocks from the house, on Wright County Road 6, before they flew off the motorcycle.
“It was the curve marked 30 miles per hour,” Mahoney said. “They were going about 70 miles per hour.”
Jeremy’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) was measured at 1.0 that night, and Jenny was sober.
Jenny’s back hit a tree, and she hit her head on the ground.
“She died right away,” Mahoney said.
Jeremy hit his head and was taken to the Hennepin County Medical Center. He then spent the next 16 years in a coma, before dying at the age of 32.
“I hope that people will think twice before getting in a vehicle with someone who has been drinking,” Mahoney said. “I also hope that adults will not provide alcohol for minors.”
Jenny’s death in 1991 is proof that people often pay a steep price for “just having fun drinking a few beers.”
Mahoney said he tells Jenny’s story 12 to 24 times every year, and it’s hard for him when he hears about students who choose to drink and drive, even after hearing his message.
“Sometimes I feel like giving up, but if I can help at least one student, it’s worth it,” he said.
Local emergency personnel Steve Berg and Denny Bobrowske were on duty the night of Jenny’s death.
They helped organize a mock crash at HLWW Friday morning in an effort to make students more aware of the consequences of driving under the influence of alcohol, as well as other driving hazards, such as talking on a cell phone or texting.
Friday, HLWW senior high students, as well as the juniors and seniors from Holy Trinity High School, watched as fellow students acted out a deadly car crash scene.
HLWW students in the first car of the mock crash included Matt Arlien, Christine Bobrowske, Tori Fiecke, and Joe Jaros. The second car had Troy and Susie Lange of Howard Lake, along with their son, CJ. The third car had HLWW students Maggie Horstman, Austin Christensen, and Brandon Torres.
Several local rescue teams took part in the act, placing “victims” in an ambulance, squad car, helicopter and hearse.
Local entities involved included fire departments from Howard Lake, Waverly, and Winsted, along with the Howard Lake Police Department, Wright County Sheriff’s Office, Wright County Emergency Management, and the Wright County Safe Communities.
In 2008, 25 percent of drivers ages 15 to 20 who died in motor vehicle crashes had a BAC of 0.08 or higher, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.