Teenager suffers extreme alcohol poisoning at concert on Colgate campus

Chief Rick Gifford

An incident on the Colgate University campus, on April 20, raises alarm over the problem of teenage binge drinking.

Hamilton Village Police Chief Rick Gifford confirms to CNY Centralâ??s Jim Kenyon that an 18-year-old high school student nearly died of extreme alcohol poisoning at a concert sponsored by Colgate University. The concert was part of Colgate's "Spring Party Weekend."

Chief Gifford says the concert was an alcohol free event that was open to the community, but the teen was among five high school students who convinced an older individual to buy them a bottle of rum off campus.

Gifford says the girl collapsed shortly after entering the concert, called the "Colgate Palooza," at Sanford Field House. Gifford says that had it not been for the immediate response by campus security and rescue personnel, the girl would likely have died. He said that at one point, she had stopped breathing.

She was immediately taken to Hamilton Hospital but eventually was transferred to Upstate University Hospital in Syracuse.

Gifford says he is currently consulting with the Madison County District Attorneyâ??s Office and has not yet been able to determine who supplied the teen with the alcohol.

Colgate University spokesperson Barbara Brooks says "The people here on campus probably saved her life."

Gifford says he has spoken to the teenâ??s parents along with administrators at her high school and says they have provided counseling to the students at the high school.

They are taking what Gifford calls a proactive approach to the problem of teenage binge drinking.

Gifford considers the incident a step back in his efforts to reduce the number of alcohol related incidents in Hamilton and on the Colgate University campus.

Gifford says that when he started as chief three years ago, there would be weekly arrests for public intoxication. He said there were several incidents where he had to pull passed out and intoxicated students out of snow drifts.

Gifford says he formed a coalition involving law enforcement, university officials, students, clergy, and business leaders to address the problem. One change Gifford instituted was to charge anyone caught with a fake ID with a misdemeanor crime. "That way, they just could not talk their way out of it, and would have to notify their parents," Gifford says.

He says that over the past three years, the efforts have reduced the number of public intoxication and alcohol related incidents by more than half.

Gifford is not releasing the name of the teen.

The previous night, a fight involving about 500 students broke out around 3:00 a.m. At least two people were stabbed, including a Colgate student.

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