DUI not new to AU

At least three students killed since 1999

For the average AU student, who is less than one-fifth through his or her life, death can be sobering, traumatic and incomprehensible all at once. It's not supposed to happen so soon, and when it does, the search for meaning and the grieving of a life cut short begin, as they did with Andrew Burr, 20. Burr died Jan. 18 when a drunken driver hit the car he was riding in. He is the third AU student to die in alcohol-related traffic collisions in the last four years.

In 1999, AU freshman Matthew O'Dell, a resident of the second floor of Hughes Hall, was killed while rollerblading from Tenleytown to campus. He was struck from behind by a fast-moving Ford Ranger pickup truck at 7:20 p.m. on Jan. 28. O'Dell, a native of Voorheesville, N.Y., was skating on Nebraska Avenue, past Nebraska Hall and approaching Ward Circle, when he was killed by Shane DeLeon, 46, of the District. O'Dell was skating with his Resident Assistant, Jeremy Woodrum, at the time.

DeLeon, a carpenter, had consumed four 12 oz. beers at Babe's Billiards Caf? in Tenleytown. He was on his way home to his MacArthur Boulevard residence when he struck O'Dell and fled the scene. O'Dell, who was not wearing a helmet, suffered "massive head trauma" and was pronounced dead that evening. After being apprehended, DeLeon pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter, The Eagle and The Washington Post reported at the time.

Thomas "Pete" Gallagher, 21, was killed while he was driving with his longtime friend and Sigma Alpha Mu fraternity brother Joshua Musicant, 20. According to Eagle articles published at the time, Musicant was driving Gallagher's Ford Escort a little past 1 a.m. on Sept. 6, 2000, at speeds in excess of 70 mph on 16th Street in Silver Spring, Md. when Musicant lost control of the car. It struck a sign and a tree, and overturned. Gallagher was killed. Musicant suffered a head injury and two other passengers in the car were reportedly uninjured.

Following the accident Musicant left AU, fell into a deep depression and was later convicted of vehicular manslaughter. He was then sentenced to eight months in the Montgomery County Jail, plus four years of suspended jail time - minus time served. Musicant was also given three years of supervised probation and 1,000 hours of community service, The Eagle reported at the time.

Musicant, who claimed he was unable to remember the accident due to the head injury, read a statement in court in which he asked the court for mercy.

"This is something that will never be settled, will never be forgotten; it is something I will never get past," Musicant said. "I loved Pete and now, because of me, he's dead."

Gallagher's brother, also in court, urged the presiding judge to give Musicant a long sentence.

"You have to learn how to live in the dark," he said. "You have to live with your failures. That darkness is yours, Joshua ... You should say goodbye to your family. You will go there, to that darkness you made." Drunken driving - the sort of crime that students sometimes admit to committing, with a laugh, but not very loudly - is the annual leading cause of death on America's roadways. In 2002, more than 17,400 people were killed nationwide by drunk drivers, a figure that accounts for 41 percent of traffic fatalities, according to the group Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

In 2002, there were 25 DUI-related deaths in the District, 371 in Virginia and 265 in Maryland. Figures are not yet available for 2003.

Drunk Driving Stats

  • 3 AU students died in alcohol-related deaths since 1999.

  • 25 DUI-related deaths were reported in D.C. in 2002.

  • 17,419 people died in alcohol-related traffic crashes in 2002.

  • 41 percent of 42,815 traffic-related fatalities in 2002 were alcohol-related.

  • 3 out of 10 Americans will be involved in an alcohol-related crash at some time in their lives.

  • 79 percent of crashes occurring between midnight and 3 a.m. involve alcohol.

  • 33 percent drivers 21 to 24 years old involved in fatal crashes in 2002 were intoxicated (Blood Alcohol Content of 0.08 or above) at the time.

  • The average person metabolizes alcohol at the rate of about one drink per hour. Only time will sober a person up. Drinking strong coffee, exercising or taking a cold shower will not help.

    Sources: Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Department of Transportation, National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, Michigan State University, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Department of Health and Human Services.

    Compiled by Eagle Staff Writer Evan Wagner.

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