The family of a student who died in a dorm at Washington State University says the 18-year-old had alcohol poisoning. Heavy drinking in college isn’t unusual. But The Ron & Don Show staff agrees if this is to be a accepted as an inevitable behavior among college-age kids, they need to be better prepared to handle it.
“We need to do such a better job of bringing kids up to speed,” says host Ron Upshaw. He believes young people who might be considering drinking, need to be aware of what 10 or 15 drinks can do to a person.
“It’s a shock. You’re feeling good up until the point where you’re not feeling good. Sometimes, like with this kid, it’s too late.”
Kenneth Hummel, 18, from Lynnwood, was found unconscious Saturday morning at Stephenson Hall on the Pullman campus. Police say they received a call early Saturday from students saying Hummel was unconscious and they were performing CPR. He died later in the day at Pullman Regional Hospital.
The Whitman County coroner’s report revealed he had a blood alcohol level of 0.40 when he died.
Whitman County Coroner Peter J. Martin says a person would have to drink about a fifth of hard liquor to have a blood alcohol level of 0.40. The legal limit in Washington state is 0.08 percent.
Producer Libby Denkmann says students need to be aware of indicators that they or someone else are in dangerous territory.
“You have to know the signs,” says Libby, adding that if someone is in serious trouble, you have to get them to the hospital immediately.
“You’ve got to learn and teach kids explicitly, ‘here is the plan when you see someone having alcohol poisoning: Go to the hospital,'” says Ron.
For underage students afraid to seek help because they might get themselves or their friend in trouble for drinking, Ron points out the consequences of not seeking help can be far greater.
“Believe me, you may be in a little bit of trouble, but way less trouble than your friend dying.”
WSU spokesman Darin Watkins says the school has seen more life-threatening situations from drinking this year than ever before.
Watkins says four other WSU students have been hospitalized this year after drinking so much that they stopped breathing. They were revived, he says.
WSU officials are responding to the death by forming a task force to study ways to reduce alcohol use and deal with over-consumption and other alcohol issues, Watkins says.
In the meantime, Libby says if heavy drinking is going to continue, students need to be keeping one another out of harm’s way.
“There’s an acceptance of this binge drinking culture. Like ‘Oh my gosh I blacked out last week,’ and it’s terrible, but if that’s what’s going to go on, then these kids need to look out for each other.”