May 30, 2008 , Mr. Anderson went out for a night of drinking on with a group of friends, including his two older brothers. Mr. Anderson fell off a log, and was later found unresponsive.
As always, my condolences to his family and friends.
MANKATO - With two large bottles of vodka and four companions -- including his two older brothers -- a 16-year-old drank "large quantities," fell off a log, passed out and later was found dead on the ground early Saturday, police said.
Mankato police investigators said Andrew I. Anderson, a 10th-grader at Mankato West High School, had a blood-alcohol level of 0.353 percent, more than four times the legal limit for an adult to drive.
Although no official cause of death has been determined, police said that alcohol was a definite factor.
It marked the third alcohol-related death in this college town since October -- a fact not lost on city leaders Saturday.
"I feel that we are very unlucky," Jerry Huettl, Mankato's director of public safety, said after an afternoon news conference. "Once again, we are here under tragic circumstances, the loss of another young life in our community."
Rescue workers said they had to scale treacherous terrain up the hill to reach the boy, who was found unconscious and not breathing by his companions.
Found blue, on the ground
They had left him on the ground after he fell off a log.
"They returned to find Andrew blue and not breathing," Huettl said. "All attempts at revival were futile."
With Andrew in Land of Memories Park on Friday night were his brothers Benjamin, 18, and Christopher, 19, all of Le Hillier, Minn.
Also present were a family friend, Andrew Miller, 18, and an unidentified 16-year-old boy, both of Mankato. At least two were high school students.
Officers were called to the park about 11:40 p.m. Friday and found the teenager on the ground and not breathing.
Investigators said Andrew and the others were drinking in the park. Rescue workers performed CPR, but he was pronounced dead at the scene.
The teen's companions told police that, after they saw him on the ground, it took awhile before they realized he was not breathing.
Police are still investigating whether others were present and how the boys obtained the vodka.
Tracy Anderson, Andrew's father, was reached at his home Saturday and said he didn't want to talk to reporters.
The body has been sent to the Ramsey County medical examiner's office for an autopsy.
Although police believe the death was accidental, Huettl said charges still could be filed against whoever provided the alcohol.
"We still don't know if alcohol was the cause of death, but it certainly was a factor," Huettl said. "It is discouraging to have this happen again. We have had tragedy after tragedy in the past year."
In October, Amanda Jax, a former Minnesota State University, Mankato student celebrating her 21st birthday died after consuming a number of drinks at a local bar.
A month later, Rissa Amen-Reif, 22, of Eden Prairie was killed and a friend, Corinne Overstake, 21, of Loretto, Minn. was seriously injured after drinking and being struck by a car after leaving a sorority party.
Mankato school officials said grief counselors will be available at the high school beginning at 1 p.m. today.
Working to raise awareness
Ed Waltman, superintendent of the Mankato public schools, said this weekend's death was especially painful because community leaders have been trying to make students aware of the dangers of underage drinking.
"This has been a huge concern for us," Waltman said, "We have tried to do as much as we can ... but we need help. We need parents to talk to their children about not drinking."
Waltman and Huettl made it clear Saturday that the problem of binge drinking among young people is not Mankato's alone.
"It's a societal problem," Huettl said.
That assessment is borne out by anecdotal and statistical evidence. Consider:
• In April 2007, University of Minnesota freshman Kyle Sharbonno, 19, fell from the third floor of a parking garage and died. Two other students were charged with illegally providing him with alcohol.
• In December, Winona State University sophomore Jenna Foellmi died of acute alcohol poisoning.
• Earlier this year, two Spring Lake Park seventh-graders were taken to the hospital after drinking shots while waiting for the school bus.
Also, while drinking rates among college students and adolescents are flat or slightly declining, nearly a third of Minnesota 12th-graders still reported engaging in binge drinking in the two weeks before they were surveyed.
Finally, Minnesota ranks third in binge drinking, just behind Wisconsin and North Dakota and just ahead of Iowa and South Dakota, according to the federal Department of Health and Human Services.
That is why Huettl said he is not optimistic that the problem will go away soon. In fact, he expects more alcohol-related deaths in Mankato.
"I don't think we're done," Huettl said. "Not until we end this cycle of binge drinking. I am pessimistic enough to say ... it's going to happen again."
Heron Marquez Estrada • 612-673-4280