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Party central is grieving

August 26th, 2004 · 1 Comment

After reading this Bremerton Sun article describing last night’s candlelight vigil, I wondered what is happening on this island. Even though I didn’t know any of the people involved, I felt struck by sadness. Five accidents in five days. What needs to change. What will it take to change.

Grief by candlelight By Ann Strosnider, Sun Staff

More than 200 people, many of them Bainbridge Island teenagers, packed an emotional candlelight service for Sarah Gillette on Tuesday evening at Bethany Lutheran Church on the island.

Gillette, 16, died early Monday in a Ford Explorer driven by a 14-year-old girl. Police said the SUV was going 80 mph on Tolo Road when it flipped and slid into a tree. The seven survivors of the crash were all taken to area hospitals. Four of them — all 16-year-old boys — remained at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle Tuesday, two in serious and two in satisfactory condition.


Caroline Brooks said she wanted to correct misinformation about Monday’s accident spread by the media and the rumor mill.

“Our daughter did not sneak out that night,” Mrs. Brooks said. “She had permission to stay with a friend that night, and the friend’s mother gave them permission to go out at midnight and meet with other friends.”

She said that contrary to some of the statements she’s heard, the students involved in the accident were “good kids.”

“They were from good families, and their parents are involved in their lives.”

Liz Boss, 16, a junior at Bainbridge High School and a member of Bethany Lutheran, asked Pastor Marty Dasler to open the church for the ceremony because so many teens on the island needed a place to let their feelings out. She said she made just five phone calls and the island network did the rest.

Monday’s accident, and a fatal one-car collision Friday that claimed the life of Rebecca Phillips, 19, are prompting a lot of soul-searching among teens and their parents.

Tim Cornpropst, 17, a junior at Bainbridge High School, played a bluesy song on guitar called “Goodbye” at the candlelight ceremony. He said his older brother wrote it after he lost his best friend in similar circumstances in Indiana.

Cornpropst said Sarah was a happy person who didn’t deserve to die and he hoped the accident would serve as a wakeup call to island youth.

“The stereotype Bainbridge Islander is a 4.0 student who’s a drunk,” he said. “And there’s truth in the stereotype. You can get away with risky behavior here because of the limited cop presence and the jaded attitude of many adults.”

Allie Meola, 16, also a Bainbridge High junior, agreed. “This place is like party central,” she said.

Some said risky behavior, including driving too fast and drinking, are not uncommon occurrences.

“Too much money, not enough supervision and not enough to do on this island,” said one dad who did not want his name used.

Friends of the students said the 14-year-old driver and her friend, another 14-year-old girl, did sneak out, “borrowed” a parent’s car without permission and picked up the other students.

I have some thoughts but now is the time for sympathy and grieving. For comfort and for prayers. And waiting for what will be born through these deaths.

Tags: island

1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Paul // Aug 26, 2004 at 11:10 am

    I’m surprised anyone else is surprised at the risky behavior of teenagers and young adults on Bainbridge: we see it on Mercer Island and I remember from my own youth in a middle to upper-income suburb. The devil finds work for idle hands, and all the better if they’re unsupervised. There is an illusion/delusion that living away from an urban area confers safety or security.

    My wife works with someone who lives and grew up in Carnation, way out there in the foothills, and the sheer number of drunken accidents, wild parties with home damage, car wrecks, and the like is astounding. But they insist that the kids are safer there than in Seattle. Carnation isn’t Mayberry and not everyone is willing or able to supervise or correct other people’s kids, so they end up pushing all the limits they can find. In small towns, the only people likely to be out late are cops and kids without curfews, it seems. With the parents asleep and no place to go but the local party spot and no way to get there but by car, accidents are inevitable. Mix in the one person who can always provide beer or something similar and tragedy becomes inevitable. (Case in point: a recent accident out in Carnation had a 16 year old girl at the wheel, drunk, drunk passengers in every seat, exluding her 19 year old boyfriend who had straightened himself (his mom is a cop), and a tree. Everyone was injured, the 19 year old, newly cleaned up, was killed, and of course, someone else is up on charges of providing alcohol to underage drinkers. The tragedy is manifold here — the immediate loss of life — but what of someone having to live with the knowledge their actions resulted in another’s death, that they made spectacularly bad choices?)

    Solutions? More involvement and better education. Too many parents opt out of their responsibilities to their kids and society, assuming their choice of neighborhood guarantees nothing bad will happen. And the kids themselves are kids: they don’t understand just how badly things can turn out. It’s hard to blame parents who want to keep their kids safe from that knowledge — we struggle with it — but it doesn’t do them any favors. They will grow up, regardless: better to nurture responsible growth that reflects your values and an awareness of choice and responsibility.